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Archive for January, 2017

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

 

Eleven years ago I had a conversation with God that I wanted to live my life with purpose for Him. And I waited.

Ten years ago I had a conversation with God that I wanted to learn how to trust Him… but to please be gentle.

Five years ago God had a conversation with me and I argued, but eventually obeyed.

Four years ago our family had a conversation with God through prayer, fasting and committing ourselves to His unknown – having no clue what it would look like.

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Three and one half years ago, God invited me to talk.  Five months later, God suggested I buckle up.

Three years ago God had a conversation with me.  After dedicating my firsts to Him, He invited me to approach TBCN for a volunteer position that wasn’t even posted.  That obedience has blessed me and our family in more ways than I can describe.

Two years ago, God asked if my seatbelt was still fastened because the adventure was starting to pick up speed.  Was I going to choose to embrace it or live in fear? One day later I was informed my job was being eliminated and I had 30 days left.

Two months later, God opened the door to work for both TBCN and Ascendant Group, both companies blessing me more than I deserve.

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Last week, God again invited me to switch addresses, telling me “it’s time” to leave TBCN for the next adventure He has waiting.

Ten years ago, I asked God to teach me how to trust Him completely because I didn’t think I did but please be gentle.

While some of the invitations God gives can be painful, I’ve learned how to pack my bags quickly so I can follow Him when He invites me to go on an adventure.

Last night I had another conversation with God: “Thank You, Father, for teaching me how to trust… and for being gentle during the process.”

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© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“… a time to keep and a time to throw away,” Ecclesiastes 3:6b (NIV)

 

Last week we had our computer doctor out to our house.  Due to multiple circumstances, he hasn’t been here in about three years.  A lot has changed in our lives, and his, since then.  He has gotten married while my husband and I have entered into “teenage parenthood.”

I have to admit, I was slightly embarrassed to have him come over because our house is far from magazine perfect.  Our house is very lived in.  Very.  Lived in.

In addition, it was December, so we had all our extra activities associated with getting ready for Christmas – and I was going on week three of bronchitis/asthma/feeling awful.  I barely had energy to work my 25+ hours a week, let alone be a wife, mother and/or Suzy homemaker.

He had to come back a second time and finally by then, I addressed the elephant in the closet, as well as the sock sticking out from under the toy bin, the dust bunnies and laundry room sink overflowing with pop bottles, a reptile bathtub and outer snow gear that was “drying” for two weeks now.

 

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To my statement of, “Please excuse our ‘very lived in’ house,” his gracious replay was, “I completely understand.”  And I realized right then, he probably did.  He was married with children.  He knows that to live, things get messy.  We could spend all our time cleaning and making things look picture perfect, or we could keep things tidy and sanitary; yet divide our time between cleaning and playing.  Our family chooses, for this season, to balance between cleaning and playing.

When we were first married and even through when our kids were really little, our house was much neater.  We had less stuff because we had less bodies to use less stuff and it was easier to keep it organized.  I realize that the next time my husband and I will have “less stuff” will be when we have less bodies in the house and I’m not ready for that stage yet.

So, while I still like my counters cleaned off and a generally picked up house, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Some days are easier than others to ignore the mess and engage in a movie marathon, and other days it still gets to me.  I’m trying to learn to savor these moments and the unique version of chaos that we have chosen for this season.

If you invite me over to your house, I promise I will help you celebrate your own version of chaos, if you have one.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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Thanks For Listening

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

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I tend to be hard on myself.  I want to do more for those I love, be there all the time and yet still be able to work, clean, shop, keep up the house, etc.  I usually end up exhausted and focusing on the areas where I’m lacking instead of what I’m doing right.

Today started out as an ordinary day… actually a little better than ordinary.  It was my extra work day which means my schedule is a little more flexible than usual, allowing for more emergencies or extras than an ordinary day.

The kids missed the bus so instead of working for an hour before running to the store and then dropping off our youngest, I had to stop work, drop them off to school, then run a few errands, barely making it in time for the youngest before the tardy bell.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but still, doable.

In between laundry and work, keeping an eye on the clock because I was going to spend the afternoon at the elementary school partying with a bunch of amazing kids and their fantastic teacher, the phone rang and I greeted the person on the other end with happiness because I love talking when they call.

While I was having a fairly manageable day, this person’s day wasn’t going so well.  Impossible demands, some not so smart decisions and multiple frustrations were building up and I was honored to be the person the caller decided to share from the heart with.  While sympathizing but not really having much to offer, I was feeling as though I wasn’t helping much.  However, at the end of the conversation three simple words were spoken, “Thanks for listening.”

Then I realized: That was all that was needed.  No solutions, just a listening ear.  Someone who cared.  Letting the person on the other end know the value and worth and how much that person mattered – in my life and others.

I don’t have to do it all right.  My house doesn’t have to be perfect.  My life can be my own version of crazy – what matters is that I take the time to listen and show the people in my life how much they mean to me.  They matter.  They are important.  They are heard and understood.  They are loved.  And that might take some time, but it’s time well spent.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

 

 

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“So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

I Samuel 16:11 (NIV)

 

There is one more aspect to this analogy that God didn’t show me right away.  It wasn’t until about two weeks later, as I was getting ready for bed, that I realized probably the most important truth and it filled me with peace.

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I was thinking again about David, and God reminded me of the bigger picture of his story.  David didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll work my hardest at tending sheep so that I can be king one day.”  Maybe he did, but nowhere in the Bible do I remember reading that.  God describes David as bold, a risk taker, someone who wasn’t afraid because He knew that whatever God brought him to, God would get him through.

I realized that while I see the whole story laid out in front of me, David didn’t.  He faithfully day in and day out tended sheep for years, all while God was using that training field to help David learn how to lead His people.  Here’s what God reminded me of last night…

God brings us to our destiny, our purpose through many different paths, but there is always a similar theme:  There is always a testing period to help us get ready to step into the role God has for us.  During that testing, God requires us to walk in faith, putting our feet in the river and trusting that He will show up after that first step.  There are also times that God remains silent and asks that we continue walking, holding onto the past promises and continuing to put our trust in Him.

But the most important truth God reminded me of is this.  God didn’t stir up in David’s heart the passion to campaign to be King Saul’s successor.  No, God sent a prophet to Jesse’s house (David’s father) and only when the prophet was persistent and asked Jesse if he had any other sons did they even remember David and called him out of the field to talk with the prophet.  God brought the opportunity to David, after a series of tests and time of maturity.  And, even after the promise was given, David experienced even more preparation before fulfilling the role God chose for him.

As I drifted off to sleep last night, not only was I thankful for the sheep God has me tending, but I slept peacefully knowing that when I truly let God lead, I have faith that He will orchestrate it in the best way. He won’t let me miss my visit with the prophet (whatever form that is to take).  He will bring the prophet to me or me to the prophet, His choice, when the timing is right.  In the meantime, my role is to keep fulfilling the role of sheep tender to the best of my ability.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, I spoke about how, for me, I had to give up my dream completely so that God could rewrite it His way, in His time.

While reading the above book, Chase the Lion, I realized something else.  If I truly allow God full access into my life and full control over all I do, then eventually the desires of my heart will be fulfilled on a level that I can’t even imagine.

In the meantime, instead of pouting or doubting or worrying that I’m missing the boat, or as in the past trying to manipulate and control which dream gets realized when, I’m content tending the sheep that God has entrusted to me faithfully.  And tending the sheep is part of fulfilling the desires of my heart.

I love the two jobs I’m privileged to do.  There are aspects to the jobs that are stressful and difficult and out of my comfort zones, but other aspects that were handwritten just for me.  If I was writing or speaking or whatever God has planned for me full time, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.

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Being a full time mom has always been the deepest desire of my heart.  Stepping away from publishing 7 books in one year or the multiple projects that are on my plate right now wasn’t a hardship.  I didn’t feel God tell me, “You’re finished.”  I heard God tell me, “For this season, your children need more of you.”  I’m treasuring that extra time.  I’m choosing to use this time to dig deeper and learn important truths that God wants to show me.  I’m using this time to invest in a healthier me, something else God has asked for obedience in.

I believe God will give me tangible goals again for 2017.  I’m sensing that God is getting ready to do a change in our family.  Do I know what?  No.  I’m actually enjoying the wait… knowing that I can trust God that whatever change He’s getting ready to make, it will be for our good.  It might be demanding, it might take me out of my comfort zone, but if God brings us to it, then God will show us how He wants us to fulfill it.

Unlike a few months ago when I had to plan everything out and tell God what the next step is, I can honestly say that more days than not I’m very happy to stay tending the sheep.  I have full confidence that since I’m listening and waiting expectantly for God’s command, I won’t miss it when He tells me to start walking.  I’ll even go as far as to say, that if for some reason I do miss it, God will tell me again until I get it.  In the meantime, I’ve grown to really love the sheep.  I hope they get to come along with me when God tells me it’s time to pick up and move on.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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“More often than not, you don’t discover your dream.  Your dream discovers you when you are faithfully tending sheep.”

Mark Batterson, Chase the Lion

 

I have spoken many times about the journey that God has allowed our family to travel. We fasted and prayed and dedicated it to Him long before we took our first step, knowing that whatever took place, we didn’t want any part of it unless He had covered it in His blessing.

When we first started walking, I confidently told God how many months I would be working another job before transitioning into writing full time.  My plan was to write fiction and be traditionally published.  I’m sure God belly laughed in Heaven when a year later I was writing strictly nonfiction and was walking the path of self publishing while still working my day job.  Almost five years later, I’m not working that day job anymore.  I now have switched fields altogether and have two jobs I’m juggling in addition to writing.

I hope you hear my heart when I say I’m not complaining at all in the above paragraph – just describing how I thought I was asking for God’s blessing in my journey by fasting and dedicating it to Him; all while telling Him my plans, wanting to retain control.

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Each year of the journey, during my January fast, God would reveal to me the goals He wanted me to fulfill.  One year it was to write and self-publish 7 books… and 7 books were self published.  Another year it was 4 books and then still another year… nothing.  I didn’t hear one single goal for 2016.  I thought maybe my radar was broken or maybe instead God was saying, “Keep doing what you’ve been doing.  Do it again.”

However, during 2016, while I made a little headway with some of my projects, what I heard instead was “This is a season for your family.  Make them your priority.” It took me a few times of asking God to make sure I heard Him correctly, but He made it clear that this season was for them.  That coincided with me sensing a change in my spirit.

I realized that for me, someone who really wanted God in charge but had control issues she was dealing with, I needed to let go of the dream completely.  By that I mean this: Instead of trying to tell God what direction I planned to go, I needed to let go of my expectations and instead continue to walk faithfully in the areas I know He told me to walk, waiting for further instructions before changing directions.  Instead of using my time daydreaming about what I envisioned my dream to look like, giving it up completely and allowing God to repaint the picture for me… trusting that it would look far more spectacular when He was finished than anything I could have dreamed up myself.

Come back next time while I share the rest of the story…

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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How Big is My God?

“The size of your dreams may be the most accurate measure of the size of your God. Is He bigger than your biggest problem, your worst failure, your greatest mistake? Is He able to do immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine?”

(Mark Batterson, Chase the Lion)

 

For about two weeks this fall, I really struggled with the above thought.  I was angry, depressed, and felt hopeless.  I was losing my dream and felt like there was no reason to continue doing what I knew I was supposed to be doing.

I think a lot of it was fatigue.  Fall was very busy for us and there just wasn’t any downtime.  The weekends were as busy as the weekdays and some weeks I worked double the hours I usually worked, while still trying to juggle full time chauffeur duties to three busy kids as well as my own activities.

I think the combination of busy and tired laid a great foundation for the enemy to start to work on my thoughts.  Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of busy, my quiet times weren’t as meaningful.  I wasn’t spending the time with God that I usually did and therefore, the enemy had more of an opportunity to whisper lies for me to choose to believe.  And the biggest lie I was struggling with was this… why should I believe that God wants the best for me? I’m not better than anyone else and just because I’m His child, that doesn’t guarantee safety or blessings or a way out of the struggles that have taken up residence on my front porch.

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It wasn’t until I read Pastor Batterson’s quote above that it hit me.  Yes, I do believe God is bigger than my biggest problem, worst failure and greatest mistake.  More importantly, I do believe His Word when it tells me He is able to do more than I could possibly imagine.  Not because I deserve it; simply because He loves me.

That is why I should believe that God wants the best for me.  Nothing I’ve done… all because He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, on the cross.  To allow other thoughts to take up residence in my heart tells God that His Son’s death meant nothing.

When I remembered that one simple truth, it changed my mindset.  Instead of seeing hopeless, I reminded God that He is working behind the scenes.  Instead of getting angry, I chose to look at situations from His point of view.  By making the simple change to see situations through the lens of God’s love, it truly does change everything.

It’s also helped that I have started to take better care of myself.  God’s best doesn’t include running ourselves down to fumes.  Jesus was the example on earth for us and He took time out to recharge and refresh regularly.  We are encouraged to do the same.  While I am still remaining open about the God-sized dream I would love to fulfill someday, I’m confident that God has one in mind… and that He will reveal it to me in His time, His way.  Until then, I am continuing to trust the promise that He is more than able to do more than I could ever imagine or think to ask for.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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