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Archive for May, 2017

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about the difference between inconveniences and true tragedies.  Not six hours after I typed those words, our electricity went out.  They promised it would come back on approximately six hours later, but then kept texting and updating their restoration time further and further out.  We finally got it back almost 24 hours later… still an inconvenience for our family, not a true tragedy.  I found, though, that it was harder for me to have a good attitude on Friday about no electricity than it was on Thursday with no car and a lost transmission.  I think it was the culmination of things and I was just physically and emotionally exhausted by now. Either way, though, I knew I had a choice.  I could give in to the bad attitude brewing and allow the enemy to win or I could fight that attitude and choose to bless those around me.  I chose the latter by cleaning a room in the house that I knew my husband would appreciate and has long been neglected; I chose to play games with my kids, building memories instead of working the day away and I chose to bless an individual with something they have wanted for a while “just because” I could.  While doing those things didn’t automatically take away my bad attitude, they were still a conscious choice and I knew I pleased my Father because I had the want to make good choices.

I found out something important that weekend.  This was long after our power was restored, our “new to us” car was in our driveway and we’d had a chance to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  We discovered that God used the power outage to prevent a true tragedy.  The power outage prevented a house fire, fixing a problem that had been building and allowing it to be fixed safely before anyone got hurt. Not to our house, but to someone we know.

That was a great reminder for me.  So much of the time life isn’t about me and my comfort. God allows things to happen in our lives and we get to choose how we’re going to react to them.  While the electricity going out was an inconvenience for us, it was used to save someone else’s life, to prevent a true tragedy.  If I had to choose between being inconvenienced and saving someone I care about versus keeping my electricity the whole time, I’m going to choose a power outage every single time.

My prayer is that when inconveniences continue to pop up in my life, and they will, that I will try and see them from a different perspective, from a position of how can I bless others instead of wallowing in a bad attitude and “maybe this is being used by God to bless someone else” instead of being about me at all.  I’m not perfect and I’m sure I’ll fail at this sometimes, but my prayer is God will gently remind me so that I can be used of Him and not allow the enemy to win even one battle since I know God ultimately wins the war.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7 (NIV)

 

Yesterday morning my husband texted me after he got to work to let me know he’d heard on the radio there was a fire which destroyed a house and garage on a road close to where my parents live.  While we (and my parents) didn’t know the people personally, I texted my dad who is a police chaplain so that he could offer assistance if he felt led to do so.  Looking at the picture of what was left of their home, I felt compassion and prayed for the family, knowing that 24 hours from now we are expected to get a snowstorm (in April) which could dump approximately 4-6 inches.  Not only is this family without a warm home to seek refuge, they have to start making decisions how to begin to rebuild their lives.  A true tragedy.

Not even 12 hours later, Bill walks in the door and drops some news.  On his way home from work, without any warning, our transmission in one of our cars goes kaput.  However, God was with us because it didn’t decide to quit until he had reached the off ramp close to our house and he was able to “limp” it home the five minutes (which took 20 minutes) in D1, which was the only gear he could get it to move in.  Bill has been driving that car back and forth to work for weeks now; to think he could have been stranded on the highway, I could have been stranded on the back roads between our son’s school and home or worse, we had driven it back and forth to a neighboring town just the day before – I could have been stranded even further from home.  Nope.  God allowed us the safety of having it conk out minutes from our house, where Bill could ease it halfway up our driveway before it said, “I’m done.”

Ironically, when Bill got home, he and I were supposed to talk about a car I’d inquired about that very day, one we were thinking of purchasing and had even put a refundable deposit down on.  Because, for the past few months, Bill and I have been prompted by God to buy a “newer” car. Looking at our family’s schedule in the fall, we are going to need two reliable vehicles to get around, and so we started looking.  Yesterday’s experience took our deadline from September to “now,” but God had already started preparing us.

The “old” me would have been freaking out about our car dying right before we were thinking of trading it in.  The “new” me sat down to dinner with my family and thanked God that we were only dealing with an inconvenience, not a true tragedy.  We were safe.  God had protected Bill by how and where and when the transmission died.  We weren’t dealing with total devastation of any kind.  We were dealing with an inconvenience with options, pure and simple.  God had prepared us ahead of time for such a time as this.  We had two cars we were considering and we went to bed that night, praying that God would show us which vehicle we should go with.  At the time I write this, the dealership isn’t open yet so I don’t know the answer… except to know I have peace.  Real peace.  If the one vehicle we test drove a few weeks ago is still available, I believe God is saying, “that is the one I want you to get.” If it has been sold, than I believe He has another one already picked out for us.

While I was happier with the knowledge we had until September to find a vehicle for our family, I still went to bed peaceful God had this inconvenience already handled for our family.  And He used it to show me once again how blessed we truly are.

I can’t say it enough – when God is in control of one’s life, while inconveniences and sometimes even tragedies still occur, He wants to walk ahead of us.  He already knows the answer… He’s not surprised by what happens and He’s waiting to lead us through safely.  We just have to ask Him to guide, and then be ready to walk in the direction He points.

This morning I sit in our warm house, drinking a cup of hot coffee, thinking about the family who lost their home yesterday.  I just spent time with my Heavenly Father, filling up in Him before getting ready to make a few phone calls to determine what options our family has for a new vehicle.  And I’m thankful… we experienced an inconvenience yesterday… but today we have options as we go about solving it.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:8 (NIV)

 

I shared last time how God used visual imagery to help me heal from years of food addiction.  Now, it may seem like He healed me instantly, but as I shared, God invited me on this journey a year ago April… and it took a year of committed obedience for this heart to finish putting the pieces of the puzzle together to be at the place where healing could occur.

Since my conversation with God, and His healing my heart, I have chosen to walk in the belief that God has helped me permanently change. But along with believing He did it, there is still a level of commitment on my part to live differently, as one who is free, not still in bondage.

It didn’t take long for the enemy to try and derail my commitment.  A little more than 24 hours actually.  He gave me one day to think I didn’t need God’s help and then chose a series of circumstances that in the past would have derailed my “new” commitment instantly.  This time, though, I’m walking in God’s healing and therefore, resisting is easier.  I saw what the enemy was doing and I wasn’t going to let it stop me from living a life free from the weight of addiction.

While I feel free to eat any food God created now, I am free to eat within the boundaries of true physical hunger and what’s best for my body.  Not Thanksgiving Day meals on an ordinary Wednesday after having eaten a normal breakfast and planning to eat dinner with my family less than four hours later.  Not grazing all day long, safe in the knowledge of God’s grace “if I mess up.”  No, and that’s where it’s different this time.  I don’t have the desire to graze, to eat constantly or to have that Thanksgiving Day meal on an ordinary Wednesday in the spring.  My emotional hunger has been filled… completely sealed.  Now the temptations to eat with family when I’m not physically hungry are there… but since I’m not spending my days filling the emotional hunger which leaves no room for physical hunger to even have a chance to begin, I’m finding that I’m usually hungry for meals with my family that I enjoy more.  And, it’s easier to eat less because I know I’m not facing “one last meal” before the next diet.  And, I find I’m craving healthier foods most of the time too.  I’m eating to fill a physical need… because God has filled the emotional need.

What about those times, though, when the enemy lays on the circumstances that leave my emotional tank empty? Not the memories from the past but the current situations that would have had me running for a donut? Now I’m turning to God to talk about them.  I’m quicker to give Him that baggage, that burden and trust He has a solution.  Of the three issues that came up two days after my conversation with God, one resolved itself, one turned out to be a nonissue, and one just needed a little extra grace in order to move past.  None were solved with a donut or piece of cake.  And that, my friends, left me more satisfied than I’ve felt in years.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how God, in all His goodness, didn’t want me wondering what His faithfulness looked like, and knowing the type of personality He created me to have, decided to show me in a wonderful way instead of just having me learn about it. He gave me heart knowledge when He could have settled for head knowledge.

After asking God to show me the root cause of my emotional eating, and Him answering me with memories which put the pieces of the puzzle together, I sat in that answer for 48 hours, asking what He wanted me to do next, but not really taking any active steps to sit quietly and hear an answer.  Not yet.

Two days later, I sensed it was time.  I was missing Him more than usual.  It’d been a busy day, emotional for different reasons, and I just wanted my Daddy. I took advantage of a quiet house, chose to stop working and was ready to finish our conversation. I asked Him the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do with the information You gave me on Saturday? You revealed to me the hole I have which in the past I’ve always tried to fill up with things which don’t work. Activities, other people.  None of those things are permanent solutions and I’m ready for this hole to be filled in once and for all.  I’m at the point in our relationship where I crave spending time with You, filling up not just daily but continually with Your strength, but this, this hole? I’m ready for this hole to be filled once and for all, completely sealed tight. How do you want me to seal it completely so I don’t keep running to food as a cheap substitute?” 

 God knows our hearts… better than we know them ourselves.  I think He knew the sincerity with which that prayer was prayed.  He and I had already spent the previous eight months working on food issues through a series of fasting so He knew I was willing to obey… but I couldn’t do it on my own. His answer came in the form of an image. It was of a giant hole in my heart in which He put potting soil (the kind with the rich minerals that you can see – the good kind, not just ordinary dirt). Into that potting soil, He planted a bright blue flower, fully grown, already in bloom, dead center of the filled hole.

Now that image might seem weird to you.  Why would I want to see a bright blue flower, in potting soil, sticking out of my chest?  It was then that I knew.  He filled the hole completely for me, right then, and watered it over the next few days, filling it with more potting soil until it was packed down… completely sealed.

While God healed completely in that moment, I knew my responsibility was to walk in that healing… and I could simply enjoy filling up with His strength on a daily basis without wasting my time filling a hole with the wrong stuff.

During my quiet time the next morning, I had a niggling feeling I was missing “the icing on the cake.”  I looked up the meaning of the blue flower, knowing God doesn’t do things by chance and so there had to be significance as to the flower He chose to bloom inside my heart.  I’m not a flower expert… but I could still picture the image of the flower He chose so clearly, so I thought I would try and Google it.

I Googled “daisy” although even though that flower was close, it wasn’t it completely.  Up popped the exact picture of the flower I saw in my mind, and it was a Gerber daisy (I didn’t even know there were more than one type of daisy).  And the meaning behind the Gerber daisy is this… cheerfulness.  The meaning for English daisy was given too… innocence.

The reason that is so personal?  God gave me the word JOY for 2017.  He chose this year, the year of JOY, to plant cheerfulness in my heart as He healed an addiction I’ve carried for almost four decades.  He gave me back the innocence of my childhood and freed me from the slavery of food once and for all.  It’s my responsibility to continue to walk in that freedom and enjoy all food that He has given, but He is the One who gets the glory for the healing.

Come back one more time as I share the last part of this journey with you.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

 

Our pastor, Pastor James Sunnock, released his first book, Living Free, and when I bought it earlier this year, I asked him to autograph it for me. Part of his autograph talked about how “our Father is always faithful.”  I was slightly stumped about that because I think of myself choosing to be faithful to obey the commands God gives me to fulfill, but I don’t really think of God being faithful to me.  I’m His servant, He’s my Master – why does He have to be faithful to me? But, isn’t that just like God to use His power to bless us and our lives when we should be focused on worshipping Him?

God, in His love, a few months later, showed me through actions a smidgen of what my pastor was referencing about His faithfulness.  I’ve shared multiple times, probably more times than you care to hear, about my struggle with food addiction.  Last April, approximately one year ago, I must have had a heart change because God was able to start making progress with me in this area.  He took me through several periods of fasting, each different lengths and each giving up slightly different things to help me begin to break the stronghold I have on food.  While some went better than others, I faithfully worked my way through them and obeyed to the best of my human ability (which, on some days, didn’t look like obedience at all).

However, then the struggle came back.  I stopped fasting, I didn’t hear that I was supposed to fast again and my struggle became real again quickly. I realized I wasn’t healed… I had merely been working on symptoms, not the root cause.  So, I went back to my Father and started another conversation with Him.  First, He answered me that He was all I needed for healing – I didn’t need to look for answers in books, other people – I just needed to listen to Him.  Okay, I’ve learned how to trust Him, so I knew if He was all I needed, then that worked for me.  Then I waited for a few more weeks.

Last weekend I started up another conversation with Him.  This time I asked God to reveal to me the root of my issue.  I knew it wasn’t that I enjoyed the food.  Not all of it anyway.  Most of what I ate, I did purely for emotional reasons.  I was upset… I ate my feelings.  I was sad… ate more feelings.  Happy?  You guessed it – let’s eat some feelings.  Not enjoying the process, the taste or the feeling afterwards.  I wanted to break that cycle but knew it would take understanding and healing of the root first.  So I asked.  This time He didn’t make me wait long at all.  The answer was almost immediate in the form of some memories.  He showed me exactly when the root was planted, how I watered it… and then He let me sit (or maybe I was afraid to continue our conversation just then) on that reflection for two days.

Come back next time and I will show you how God showed me His faithfulness to finish our conversation, in what feels like once and for all.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about my love/hate relationship with technology.  However, there is one form of technology that I love, love, love – the power of the text.  For someone like me, who does better expressing herself with words (written) than words (spoken), texting is a great invention.  It can be used to connect throughout the day with those you love, between friends whose lives have gotten as busy as yours but yet you want to make sure they know you are thinking of them… or even to help repair relationships.

Last week, there was a breakdown in my relationship with someone.  This same issue kept popping up with regularity; yet we were unable to solve the root of the problem and barely dealt with the symptoms. Through the use of text, it opened up the line of communication to speak freely (my) feelings that I have a hard time expressing in person.  We communicated back and forth for a little while and while it didn’t solve the problem right then, we started moving in the right direction instead of being stuck in the standstill which had occurred for weeks prior.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, that first simple text, which had started the communication, evolved into breaking the silence and getting us back to where we needed to be, fully connected again. While the entire conversation didn’t take place via text, it was the jumpstart needed to start the process.

I’m learning that just because I hear the “ding” of my phone, that doesn’t mean I have to rush and answer it every single time.  We have “text free” and “no technology times” in our household and these are in place as much for me as they are for everyone else.  I love how our youngest uses texting to share bird pictures or “Jewel” pictures with his grandparents, friends from school and even to ask his teacher a question about his homework.  Yes, his teacher texts him back almost immediately with the sweetest texts and answers!  He is so blessed! Our oldest two text us to keep us updated and involved in their lives. That means a lot to me that they want to share things with us still.  I have a group of friends that I can group text whenever there is a prayer request that needs to be passed along. Texting flirting with your spouse is quite fun too!

Unfortunately, just as texting can bring encouragement to others, it can also be used in negative ways.  While we can’t control how others use their texting power, we always have full control over the way we respond.

There is definitely power behind the text… it can be used for evil or for good.  I pray that in your life, you have experienced the positive power of the text and have only passed along that positive power to others yourself.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16 (NIV)

 

Those who know me realize I have a love/hate relationship with technology.  On the positive side, it allows me to work from home so I get to be at home, raising my kids and still the “heart of the home” while helping earn a paycheck and contributing financially to the household.  It also has allowed me to begin a ministry with the writing of books, creation of this blog and other aspects of life that God has led me into.  Additionally, it has helped me reconnect with friends I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to find again as our lives took separate paths, many states apart, so the creation of Facebook and use of email have a special place in my heart for those reasons.  Google?  I’ll take Google any day over the set of encyclopedias we used to own; although I have to say, I think it’s made me lazier because now I use it for everything.

However, those who know me also know the parts I consider the negative side of technology.  I hate that people don’t seem to talk to each other as much anymore.  Even someone like me, who hates to be “on” technology when I’m not working, I find that I will take out my phone and scroll through Facebook instead of looking up and engaging with people within arm’s reach.  Since most of my working hours are spent in front of a screen, I prefer, when given the chance, to turn things off, pick up an old fashioned paperback book at the end of the day and escape versus flipping on a Kindle or Nook.  However, there are some books I only have access to via eBook, so I will gladly choose reading the rich content anyway I can get it, even if I means via technology.

One way kids love to connect now a days is through technology and I’m a bad mom, because when my kids say, “Can I show you something?” I cringe and my first instinct is to say, “No.”  Not that I don’t want to connect with them and their interests; it’s just that either I’m working on a deadline on my own technology or my eyes and brain have had enough stimulation from screens that I don’t want to be entertained that way anymore.  I need to learn the heart behind the request and that when I say “yes,” I’m saying yes to the opportunity to connect with them, not staring at more technology.

While I’ll probably always feel a push-pull toward and against technology, I’m grateful to live in “such a time as this.”  This is the era God chose for me to live in, to raise my family in and to influence others through.  He made me part Little House on the Prairie, part modern working woman for a reason. It’s not my job to figure out why, but it is my responsibility to listen to His still small voice and look up and connect face-to-face or look down and choose connection with my kids as He invites me to.

What about you?  Do you have a love/hate relationship with technology or do you just love it or just hate it?

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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