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Archive for November, 2016

“A wise son brings joy to his father…” Proverbs 15:20 (NIV)

 

When my husband and I got married, we were older and therefore thought two children would be the perfect fit for our family.  However, after our daughter was born, as happy as I was to have two amazing kids, our family didn’t feel complete.  While we didn’t pursue any more, I wouldn’t have been upset had God blessed us with another.  Three years later, two lines appeared on the stick and I was over the top ecstatic.  Six short weeks’ later, the dream of another little one died the day I miscarried.

However, God wasn’t done with our family yet and despite the fact that we again didn’t actively pursue growing our family, almost exactly two years to the day, two lines appeared on the stick again.  The following July our bonus blessing was born.  As this little one was growing inside me, my husband told me that he was going to live with no regrets.  He encouraged me to treasure not just every single minute with our bonus blessing, but with every single child God loaned to us.  I believe we have done that fairly well.

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Because of our bonus blessing, I have met some amazing women – teachers, school staff and other moms.  These women pray with me and for me, and we have become quite a community together.

I’ve learned all things reptile, bird, amphibian, venomous and more.  I’ve learned to enjoy (yes, enjoy) holding snakes, bearded dragons and salamanders. I find myself catching spiders (I know) and letting them go outside instead of killing them and throwing them away.  I’ve been given the chance to savor yet again sticky hugs, muddy footprints, and elaborate drawings.

I love his sweet spirit toward animals, younger children or those who need a friend.  I love his adventurous spirit that gets him covered in mud, poison ivy, and thorn bushes.  I love his protective spirit that holds open the door for me because “Ladies first, Mom” and covers my eyes if we’re watching something on TV that he thinks will scare me.  I love his growing relationship with his Heavenly Father… spoken through his daily conversations with the God of the universe.

I love that he’s still young enough that while he loves spending time with his friends, I’m still invited to tag along.  I love his love for life… his excitement and wonder is so catching.  I love being invited to “check out this bird” or “come see what I found in the garden.”  I love that God blessed our family with a bonus blessing… our family felt complete the day he was born.  I’m glad God blessed me to be his mom.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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Available Now: Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

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November 24th and November 26th

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Available Now: Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

Choosing Grace Kindle cover

FREE ON AMAZON THREE DAYS

November 24th through November 26th

Please share with your friends 

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Spoken from the Heart

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“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

 

God certainly knew He was blessing me when the stick showed two lines a little over 13 years ago.  This summer, God allowed me the time to treasure what it means to be a mom to my daughter…

Whether being asked to paint designs on her newly painted nails, or getting our hair dyed the same color or going to her for clothes advice, I’m blessed to be her mom.

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I love that we share an interest in inspirational fiction and even some true life stories.  I love that we share similar tastes in movies.  I love that she is old enough to want to help cook.  I love her creative ideas and watching her babysit, taking over the care of a one-year-old with the ease of a grown up.

I love that she knows her mind and what she wants to do for a living already… taking the steps she needs to start achieving those goals.  I love that she has a tender heart and a sweet spirit… wanting to grow closer to God and making choices that she knows will please Him.  I love that she has godly mentors in her life that breathe life into her, encouraging her in the true definition of being a woman versus the pull of what the world believes. I love that she’s always up for an adventure and remembering the memories we made this summer still brings a smile to my face.

I love that she still wants to spend time with me despite the fact she is growing up and the pull of friendship and friends’ activities is strong.  I love talking deep, wrestling with spiritual truths and how to best articulate them to others.  I love the fact that she has such a forgiving spirit when in the heat of the moment I use my “mean face and angry voice” because I’m frustrated, not so much at her but feeling overwhelmed and sharing those feelings when she doesn’t deserve them.

I love that God blessed me with three children here and one waiting for me in Heaven. I love that God sandwiched our daughter between two boys.  I love that she likes to put puzzles together and go to the movies and take walks and explore her interests and still  invites me along for the journey.  I love that her personality is so unique and special, so unlike her brothers who are also unique and different from each other.

I love that God chose to let me stop and take the time to savor these moments… the ones that are fleeting and soon will be only in my memory.  I love that we still have six more years with this daughter that God designed especially for our family.  I’m glad that God blessed me to be her mom.

Do you have any special memories from the middle school years, or especially with a daughter of any age that you would like to share with the rest of us?  If so, please share below.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

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Available Now: Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

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FREE ON AMAZON

THREE DAYS

November 24th through November 26th

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“And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

I Samuel 2:21 (NIV)

 

This past summer I’ve really enjoyed watching our oldest thrive.  I think I noticed it more then because he had time to pursue things he enjoyed and had a passion for without the added responsibility of homework and time spent sitting in a classroom.  While he was hardly ever home because of his pursuits, I loved standing off to the side and just watching as he went after his goals with enthusiasm and accepted responsibility, because that’s what men do.

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I thought the best part of being a mom was when my children were infants.  I loved being pregnant (despite morning sickness that lasted the entire day, almost the entire pregnancy) and thought the infant years were amazing.  I always wondered about the moms who went before me on this journey stating, “Just wait.  You’ll love each stage as much as you love the one you’re in now.”

Guess what?  They were right!  I love that our oldest has a great sense of humor.  I love watching him grow into the man God created.  God has blessed him with some great mentors in his life to help encourage him on this journey, because let’s be honest… great parents know that sometimes what you say is received better when said by someone else.  When we encourage other adults to breathe life into our kids and reinforce the values we believe, our kids are better for it.  His dad and I are blessed by the mentors our son has in his life, men of God who speak life over him.

I love that he uses his talents and is becoming a real leader – a trait that he will need to use in the role of husband and father.  I love how he still enjoys time with his family – whether watching Captain America: Civil War or going on family trips, he’s always up for an adventure.

He is at a bittersweet age.  My job as his mom is to continue to guide him and teach him skills so he will eventually gain full independence, but it’s a daily reminder that our time together as a family of five under one roof is slowly fading.  He was never ours to begin with – he has always been on loan from our Father.  I’m just glad that God allowed us the privilege to have a front row seat to watch him become the man God designed.

Yes, I can honestly say I love being the mom of this teenager.  While we have only two and a half more years with him under our roof, I can’t wait to watch him soar when he sets off on his own journey that God has called him to.  I’m glad God blessed me to be his mom.

Do you have any times you would like to share to encourage others about what you loved about having a teenager or teenagers?  Please share below.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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“I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17 (NIV)

 

Why do I expect more out of myself than my children?  I don’t mean maturity wise.  I should, and do, expect more out of myself in that arena, although some days I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.  But in the area of balance… why do I expect to be able to balance my family/ministry/work life perfectly; yet, give my kids grace when theirs is constantly changing?

That’s the way life works… priorities and schedules and commitments constantly shift and it’s our job to learn how to flow with it or else we end up stressed and overwhelmed about something that will never stop.  For someone who likes to be in control, that’s a hard lesson to learn and stick with.

I was reminded of my friend’s conversation with me about her feelings of failure for forgetting an important event in her child’s life when I myself struggled with the decision to make memories with my kids or finish up work for the week so we could make more memories over the weekend, work free.

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Our oldest has a college night class, so he and his dad have a standing date driving back and forth and are gone all evening.  That leaves me at home with the younger two and every Thursday I eagerly anticipate a chance to spend a relaxing evening with them. I envision either snuggling up on the couch with popcorn for dinner, comfy sweats and a fun movie, or an electronic free evening reading books together… finishing their chores early, homework done and our youngest getting in bed on time for once.

However, reality for the past few months has been:  I’m stuck on the computer finishing up “just one more assignment,” while reminding nicely at first and then with an ever increasing volume to be heard above the music blaring and dog barking and siblings laughing to “get your chores done, get in the bathtub… and what about your homework?”  Soon, in walks my husband and oldest and our little is up way past his bedtime.  My poor husband doesn’t even question it anymore… that’s how long it’s been happening.  I cringe, knowing that I should’ve pushed away from the computer hours ago to spend meaningful time with them, but didn’t.  I’m left feeling exhausted, guilty and overwhelmingly like a failure yet another week.

However, the truth is: There’s a reason behind my working extra hours.  Things are shifting in my jobs so I’ve taken on more responsibility setting things up to hopefully in the long run help both jobs run more smoothly.  I’m also working extra hours now so that I can look forward to a few days off with pay over the Thanksgiving holiday, total downtime without being on the computer at all, making memories with the family.

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Does this occur every night?  No… most evenings I’m able to leave the computer early, checking emails once or twice more and then leaving things until the morning to deal with again.  Our kids serve with me once a week at our church, we have family dinner with my in-laws one night a week, and for many, not all, Friday nights, I’m serving alongside two of our kids in the school concession stand listening to the third play percussion.  Weekends are spent, for the most part, away from the computer as we tackle bigger jobs around the house that need extra hours or we plan something fun together as a family.  So while I would love to spend extra one on one time bonding with just two while my husband and our oldest is away, I have that chance on Saturday mornings when our husband takes one of the three on a rotating one-on-one date.  I choose to work during the week so I can have that time on the weekends, with the occasional change of plans.

I want to encourage everyone today.  Never will our lives look perfectly balanced.  As long as we keep our focus on the important things:  Always God first, then our spouse, then our children, then extended family, work, ministry and friends (all on the same line), God will help keep the scales balanced for us.  Our kids are more understanding of the late hours when they see that sometimes we push away from our work or put it away so that they are the focus of our attention.

Just like with my friend the other day – when we make sure our kids know we will be there for them when they truly need us, they are understanding about the times our lives are a little out of balance here and there as life gets in the way of what’s truly important.

I try and remember to ask God to stay in charge of my schedule each day because then and only then do I realize if my schedule gets sidetracked, I’m right where God wants me, even if it’s the opposite of what I had originally planned.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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Failure or Fantastic?

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8 (NIV)

 

I ran into a friend last week who was telling me about her stellar job at being a failure as a mom, yet again, or it felt like to her. It was a busy week for their family, trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule and then adding a few extras in just to keep things interesting.

As she was finishing up the usual morning routine, she got a phone call from one of her children whom she thought had already started the school day.

“Change of plans, mom.  I can’t come home on the bus after all.  Everyone’s staying and I need you to bring me my stuff.”

Since my friend’s “after school hours” were more busy than her morning routine, she quickly changed gears, grabbed the things her child needed and took a detour to deliver the items on the way to start her day, a little later now than usual.  The whole time she was berating herself because she didn’t know about the after school event and labeled herself the “bad mom” because her child would be the only one without a contribution.  Considering making another detour to the store first just didn’t fit into the schedule of dropping off her child’s gear before returning the borrowed vehicle, since her car was in the shop.

However, six hours later, she received another phone call, again from her same child.  “Can you bring me _____?”  My friend could sense that what was asked for wasn’t what was really needed.  She could hear the “bad day” in her child’s voice and read between the lines.  So, rearranging her schedule once again, she drove back to the school, praying the whole time for her Heavenly Father to comfort His child in the way that only He could.  When she arrived, even though she only had a few minutes, she wrapped her arms around her child and whispered how much she loved the one she called her own, making sure not to embarrass her child in front of any friends that could be lingering.

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She left the parking lot a second time that day, this time realizing that her child didn’t see her as a failure the way she saw herself that morning.  She might have dropped the ball and the contribution earlier in the day, unintentionally, but when it really mattered, when her child needed her more than ever, she dropped everything and was there, even if only for two minutes.  Even if the drive back and forth was longer than the hug, she tuned into her child and made sure to deliver.

Later, when her child called to say it was time to come home, my friend made sure to take the drive alone, knowing that 20 minutes in the car was necessary for her child to talk about the day and my friend was ready to be 100% present.  It wasn’t a time for lectures, it wasn’t even a time to be taught “what Jesus would do”… it was just a time to listen and empathize, remembering herself how hard growing up can be.

My friend taught me an important lesson that afternoon, one I’ve thought of often when I almost missed the deadline for turning in conference preference times, when I had to pay fines at the library due to late fees and when I flat out refused to get off the couch for the fifth time in 20 minutes to see one more bird outside the window.  We aren’t failures, friends, when we miss an occasional deadline or event that our child is participating in.  Failing is choosing not to show up on the parenting journey.  Continuing to make the effort, even when we sometimes get it wrong, is what really counts in the long run.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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“In my distress I called to the Lord;  I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”

Psalm 18:6 (NIV)

 

Last time I spoke about how God started me down the road to true freedom.  It started with me crying out to Him and Him answering in the most loving way possible.  There were sacrifices that I had to make to walk His road, but the further along in the journey I got, the less they felt like sacrifices and the more they felt like offerings, gifts to Him.

In August I ended my 40 day fast and with that came some major answers to prayer for things I’d been asking God to fix in my life for a while.  Within two weeks, I decided I needed to fast again and tried to begin a 90 day fast, something I felt God was inviting me to do also.  However, I kept breaking the fast, and while the scale hasn’t moved down any more since August, it hasn’t crept back up either.  I still have continued exercising six days a week, but some of the areas where I’d found freedom in the eating pattern God had invited me to participate in, I was starting to experience bondage again.  Hip and leg pain were coming back and I knew it was largely because of things I had added back into my diet.

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I had to make another decision this week.  God invited me on a journey to complete freedom – did I want to stop one third of the way there or did I want to see it through to completion?  I’m greedy.  I want complete freedom so I’m choosing to fast again – this time making the commitment to restart and fast for 90 consecutive days.  God is the One who showed me 90 days is my number.  Since I waited so long to start again, I’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas while fasting this year.  This fast isn’t quite as strict as the last one, but I will still be making sacrifices during the holidays and honestly, while it will be hard in the moment, I’m okay with it.

I’m looking at this experience from a different mindset than I have any other “diet” I’ve participated in.  First of all, it’s not a diet.  God is teaching me a new lifestyle that He wants me to live under.  He’s showing me what is normal for me and since my “normal” has been so skewed for so many years, it will take at least 90 days to make and maintain healthy habits.  I’m “under construction” during this season in my life and my prayer is that when this 90 days is over, I’ll emerge liking the changes in my eating habits as much as the energy and life that God is giving back to me.

I’m not looking to diet and then “eat anything I want, like that skinny person over there.”  That’s not the true freedom I crave anymore.  I’m looking to thank God for the blessing of loving me enough to show me what I need to do in order to live the life He has chosen for me.  I’m looking to get to the size God designed my body frame to wear, eat the foods He has chosen to fuel my body without pain, and not have to worry about “dodging the bullet of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure because I would rather eat recklessly than mindfully.

I’m choosing most of all to say thank You to my Father who loves me enough to want the best for me, and to show me the boundaries that will help me get there and stay there.  After all, those boundaries bring me the freedom, they don’t keep me from true freedom.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

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“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

II Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)

 

When I thought of the phrase true freedom, I naively thought it meant that whatever I had been struggling with would miraculously be healed and I wouldn’t have to deal with that issue again.  In the area of weight control, something I’ve struggled with my whole life, I thought true freedom meant getting to a healthy thought life with food and I’d be able to eat anything and everything and wouldn’t gain weight.  I could have “freedom” like all the skinny people walking around (although I’d never thought to ask a “skinny” person what and how they did eat all day long).  True freedom from anger would mean I might get angry, but I’d quickly replace those angry thoughts with loving thoughts and never would a bad word enter my mind, trying to escape through my mouth.  Freedom from gossiping, jealousy, etc. would all look similar as well.

God has been taking me on a journey for quite a while, actually, but I’ve seen major growth this past summer that has continued into the fall.  True freedom is a choice.  It means choosing to walk the path God’s way, trusting that His way is best for my life and believing Him when He says there’s life and freedom on His path.  For me, it means realizing that true freedom is living by God’s rules, the rules He put into place to bring me life, not to punish me or deny me fun.

Choosing Grace Kindle cover

I’ve cried out to God many times throughout the years and while I’ve had brief success occasionally, I knew I hadn’t obtained true freedom.  The cravings were still there, I was just either replacing them with satisfaction from another source other than food or I was holding tightly to what little willpower I had, knowing if I took one bite of that “forbidden fruit” I would spiral downward faster than I could say, “donut.”

I honestly don’t know what made the difference this time, but I distinctly remember being broken as I was falling asleep one April night, telling God that if He would just tell me what He wanted me to do, even if I didn’t want to, I would obey if it meant freedom from this area of my life that invaded all others.  I woke up eight hours later with a name, three words I hadn’t thought about in four years: “My Fitness Pal.” I resisted at first because it felt like bondage, but then slowly, slowly began the journey God invited me on, realizing what felt like bondage in the beginning was really the beginning of true freedom.

The “rules” didn’t change.  I still logged in, counted my calories, tracked my exercise and recorded my weight occasionally, but my mindset is what was completely transformed.  What I once saw as punishment and harsh rules, I now saw as my loving Father inviting me into really living, replacing my stronghold of food with a deeper reliance on Him.

The real transformation is taking place inside me while my outside appearance slowly changes as well.  I ended a 40 day fast in August.  Come back next time and see where God is leading me now.  God doesn’t do things half way.  When He brings freedom, He brings it full circle.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

 

 

 

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