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Archive for July, 2017

“ Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)

 

We watched Manchester at the Sea yesterday.  While I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (there is quite a bit of profanity and mature audience subjects), it was a thought provoking movie.  However, I don’t really want to talk about the movie itself, but a lesson I needed to be reminded of which was told so perfectly on the screen.

Casey Affleck portrays an uncle who takes custody of his 16-year-old nephew. Upon first impression, this teenager is quite mature and handles adult situations in a way some adults haven’t even mastered. However, as the story unfolds, it’s clear to see he’s still only 16.  There were a few scenes where the actor did a great job of showing he still needed the loving adults in his life to guide him.  He hadn’t crossed the finish line into adulthood yet.

In one particular scene, they were sitting in his uncle’s car and Casey asked his nephew a question, waiting for an answer.  He received the standard, “I don’t know” reply to which the uncle responded (paraphrased so as to not give away the story), “Well, it needed to be a ‘yes’ for me, but that’s me.  No is acceptable too.  I don’t care what you decide. (long pause) Do you need me to decide for you?”

That’s the part that struck me.  “Do you need me to decide for you?”  We have two teenagers in our house and an elementary school-aged child.  It’s easy for me to interact with our youngest child.  I still make the majority of the decisions for him, while he gets to express his opinion and make his preference known, because the most difficult questions have to do with what food he wants to eat, when he needs to go to bed, and what animals he’s going to get next or how many. Pretty straightforward, simple questions.  Questions that won’t ruin his life if he chooses wrong.

However, interacting with my teenagers is different.  While I want to give them as much practice as possible to exert their independence, this movie reminded me that my job isn’t finished.  There will be times when I will need to decide for them.  I have the wisdom and insight from living twice as long as they have to make some of the hard decisions, knowing what kind of an impact their choices will have on their life now and possibly for their future too. Their decisions aren’t simply bedtime routines and how many times they will eat in a day.  Instead of feeling guilty for not letting them sprout their wings completely, I need to be strong enough to step up and say at times, “I need to make this decision for you.”

We have great kids.  They make great decisions.  But it was a good reminder to me that my job, while approaching the finish line, isn’t completed yet.  And if done well, I will never completely be without a job. I will always be their mom.  I will always have lived 25+ years longer than they have, and while eventually the roles will change and they will have to decide if they want to take care of me when I’m too old to care for myself, for now, it was a good reminder that I can (and should) step up and ask, “Do you need me to make this decision for you?” when necessary.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time that every year my family goes on a special vacation to Traverse City, Michigan.  We love it up there. I love God’s creation and being out in it refreshes and rejuvenates me more than most other activities.

We also visit Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Usually we first drive the scenic route and then tackle the dune climb.  This particularly year I was dreading the dune climb but would feel like a failure if I didn’t attempt it.  I have a foot injury I’m trying to get under control and I also have asthma that doesn’t like dune climbing very much. Even though my husband gave me a free pass to sit this one out, I felt like if I did, I would be admitting defeat and I didn’t want to do that.

While on the scenic drive, there is one stop off that invites the visitors to climb a short distance and the view is spectacular.  It also has a sign warning of the steep dune that makes up that spectacular view.  Visitors aren’t prohibited from descending; but they are warned that most can’t make it back up and those that do, it takes two hours or $75 in rescue fees.  The other alternative is a two mile hike to Empire Beach where someone you call can come pick you up.

We’ve been visiting this area for eight years and never during our trips have I seen anyone descend and/or attempt to climb back up.  However, this trip there were two couples from California – young and in great shape – and the men decided they wanted to defeat the mountain.  The women took their gear and resigned themselves to a 2+ hour wait for their “boys” to come back up.  We got to watch them descend and they loved it!  You could hear their contagious laughter and bantering back and forth while running full speed down the hill to the clear water waiting below.  After enjoying their fun secondhand, our family moved away from the edge and explored some on our own.

We stayed up there for about 30 minutes and decided to check on the guys’ progress before leaving.  They had barely made a dent in their return trip.  They were spider crawling back up, or attempting to and hadn’t covered much distance.  We didn’t stick around to see if they needed to be rescued, hiked the two miles to the nearest beach to be picked up or eventually made it up on their own power.

We left there and drove to the dune climb and that’s when I looked at the “mountain” I was deciding whether or not to conquer.  I realized it wasn’t nearly as big as I had remembered.  It was big, and you have to be in shape to accomplish it, but it wasn’t impossible.  Changing my mindset and implementing the sideways walking my husband suggested and led me with, I was able to get up to the top in a short amount of time and wasn’t nearly as winded as I had imagined in my mind for two days’ prior.

How many times in life have I been tempted to do something, thinking it will be fun, and then realizing afterward I made a mistake and shouldn’t have taken that path? How many times in life have I imagined something harder than it really is?  Have I built something up in my mind to the point where I think it’s impossible, but if I take it in bite sized pieces, it’s quite attainable?  That’s why I need to always be asking for God’s wisdom.  If I let Him lead, He will steer me clear of the sand dunes that could charge me costly fines for needing to be rescued while at the same time, He can remind me that with a little sideways walking, what seemed impossible is really quite fun.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Sideways Leading

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)

 

We had our annual family get away this past spring up north. I love spending uninterrupted time with my family and I love it even more when I can be out in nature enjoying God’s creation.

My husband found us two new places to hike this year and one of them was considered a moderate hike with hills parallel to a beautiful river.  There was a bridge overlooking the river and at one point, we stopped to enjoy a family of geese.

Our littlest loves birds.  Well, he loves animals but he has become quite the bird aficionado lately.  His interest in birds has gotten me admiring them more as well, so our whole family stopped to watch this family of geese.  It was soon apparent the parents were giving their six goslings a lesson in how to cross a body of water safely.  The father ventured out first, leading the way, sandwiching the six goslings between himself and his “wife.” That’s when the journey they were taking got interesting to me.

He started swimming sideways in the current instead of facing it head on.  And he didn’t just do this once.  This was his mode operandi every single time they took their goslings back and forth from one spot to the other, making them practice repeatedly until, I guess, the parents were confident their goslings could do it independently.

Not 24 hours later, our family ended up at the Sleeping Bear Dunes dune climb.  For those of you who haven’t been to Traverse City, they have a beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes Park up there where you can drive a scenic route around and through sand dunes or you can get out at one point and begin hiking by first climbing a tall sand dune and then mastering several smaller ones – as many as you prefer with as much time as you have.

This year I’m dealing with a few health issues that I thought would sideline me from climbing at all.  However, after the example of the geese the day before, my husband lovingly asked me if I wanted to “sideways climb” with him all the way to the top.  He said it wouldn’t put as much pressure on my injured foot or my asthma lungs and it might make the climb more enjoyable.  I took him up on the offer, letting him lead and I gladly followed, putting my feet where he had placed his moments earlier and successfully climbed to the top without much pain or wheezing.

God is amazing.  He puts intelligence into all of His creatures – from mankind with our intelligence to natural instincts in His animal kingdom.  I’m so glad we stopped to watch the sideways leading lesson from the geese the day before.  I gladly allowed my husband to lead me sideways to help me achieve my goal of mastering the sand dune.  I didn’t want to leave this year without having the chance to say I did it.  My husband saw that desire and with the use of a little creativity, helped me meet that goal.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time about how God allowed me to marry someone who knows how to cherish me, not just love me, which by definition are two very different emotions.

This past weekend, I hurt my husband emotionally, quite badly.  I did something, not out of spite or malice, but something that hurt him deeply and I felt immediate remorse for it. I apologized as soon as I realized what I’d done, but that didn’t take away the sting or the anger or the hurt he felt from my actions.  And, to hurt the one I love, the one I cherish, felt awful.

I gave him space after my apology and it wasn’t until almost 24 hours later that we made the loving choice to talk about what happened.  I say loving choice because by nature men would rather not talk about it whereas women, by nature, need to reconnect verbally.  We went into the privacy of our room and it was then we shared our hearts.

I admitted what I did was wrong, why it was wrong and how I knew I had hurt him more deeply than intended because of what my action spoke nonverbally to him.  He admitted to me how he felt, why it hurt (confirming what I suspected) and he was able to show me in a way that I still felt cherished what my actions really did.

I have issues from my past that hate conflict.  When conflict occurs between my husband and I, my thoughts always jump to worst case scenarios.  I have insight into why that happens, and while my rational head tells me I’m being irrational, it still happens.

However, this time was different.  Maybe it’s because God has been wooing me for months and showing me how much He cherishes me, but this conversation was different.  Even though I knew I’d messed up and had hurt my husband deeply, I still felt loved during our difficult conversation.  Even when explaining to me his feelings, I felt protected, nurtured and cherished.  Even when I didn’t deserve to feel that way and should have been “punished” or at least left to think about what I did, he showed me grace.

Isn’t that what God does?  When we mess up and come to Him with a repentant heart, He counters that confession not with the punishment we deserve but with grace and mercy that we don’t deserve.  Even though I know I’ll mess up again and hurt my husband in the future, I have assurance I don’t have to play worst case scenarios in my mind because we’ll work through the next mistake, the next hurt, the next issue together.  God gives us the same assurance.  His love isn’t dependent upon our actions or being perfect.  He loves us, He cherishes us because we’re His children.  Just as my husband cherishes me even when I don’t deserve it, God cherishes us perfectly, unconditionally, just because that’s who He is.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Cherish: protect and care for (someone) lovingly; hold (something) dear

Love: an intense feeling of deep affection; feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).  Google dictionary

 

I’ve been happily married for over 18 years to my best friend and we dated for two years prior to that.  We started out as friends and I’ve mentioned more than once on my blog how the first summer we were together, I didn’t know who I was dating since three of us hung around together and just got to know each other and have fun.  The three included my now husband, his best friend who had a hand in arranging the blind date where we met and myself.

My husband has a wonderful way of making me feel cherished every single day which is very different from love, according to the above definitions.  It’s the little things like backing my car into the driveway instead of pulling in so I can get out easier in the morning, bringing home my favorite flavor of coffee even though I have more than enough other coffee in the house to last me for a few months, to showing our kids how much he loves me by putting my needs before theirs (when appropriate), having my back when I’ve had to discipline, and planning activities he knows refresh me like taking hikes, cuddling on the couch or watching movies he probably wouldn’t sit through if he didn’t have me in his life.

It’s also the big things, such as scouring the internet to find the best and most healthy alternatives for our family because he cares what we put into our bodies, planning fun family getaways down to the last detail so we will all enjoy ourselves, helping me set up, execute and tear down garage sales without any complaint, and setting examples for our kids by doing the dirty work in the house instead of pawning it off on them in the name of “teaching responsibility”.

However, it’s not just in his actions that show me I’m cherished.  It’s also in his words.  He shows me unconditional love.  Even when I’m exasperating and unrealistic and illogical at times (and trust me, I can be all of the above and then some), he shows patience and kindness and love with what he says and how he says it.  We share inside jokes, family jokes, private jokes, and “just between us” jokes.

I’ve shared in the past how God has had me on a journey to learn how much He cherishes me and I believe one of the (many) blessings that has come out of my marriage is God uses my husband to show me in tangible ways a glimpse of how my Father loves me. While my husband can’t love me perfectly (and I can’t love him perfectly), he loves unconditionally very well.  And it’s only taken me 18 years to fully accept and embrace that love because it’s taken me 40+ years to learn to fully embrace and accept God’s love.  I always knew God loved me, but to feel cherished by God brings a whole new element to our relationship.

If you think we’ve never had disagreements or issues, come back tomorrow and I will show you how it’s still possible to be cherished in the midst of imperfection.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:5-8 (The Message)

 

I spoke in Giving God My Time about finding too many books to read and not enough time to read them.  Before I had my “ah ha” moment, I was browsing through Barnes and Noble one night while on a date with my husband and noticed a three book series that looked good.  Our library had all three of the books, available now, so I requested them.  The series is Sensible Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Brown.  If you want to read some great books that focus on four women in a fictionalized story yet deliver lots of spiritual meat within that context, pick them up and read them.  These are great.

I’ve come to love the character Hannah.  She and I are quite similar in that I’ve struggled with many of the issues she struggles with.  In the first book, Sensible Shoes, she took her role of being responsible very seriously in life and therefore, God was inviting her to learn how to have fun.  I’ve shared many times about how God is bringing fun back into our family and how I’m working on kicking Eyeore out for good.

In the second book, Two Steps Forward, she learns another truth that hit me hard.  I didn’t really have a name for it but knew I suffered from it.  I have talked many times about being a recovering perfectionist, and in my opinion, one of the symptoms of that is putting a lot of pressure on myself not to miss God’s will for my life.  If He gives me a rhema word, (a fancy way of saying a promise personalized for me and my life that is backed up by Scripture) then I stress myself out making sure I’m dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s so I don’t miss the deadline, the expiration date, the whatever I think I’m going to miss.  And living that way is stressful.

God has slowly been showing me throughout the last four years that He made me the way I am.  And He knows I need a huge neon billboard flashing in front of me before I’ll  be able to see what He’s trying to show me.  What I need to remember is He doesn’t get frustrated with that part of my personality.  He made me that way! He knows what it takes to get my attention and He knows my heart – I’m paying attention and want to do His will.  Therefore, I need to learn to relax some and trust He will show me, in His time, what He wants me to know and what steps He wants me to take.  And my past history has proven that theory correct time after time after time.

By placing the responsibility of getting my attention on God’s shoulders and taking it off my shoulders, it lifts the invisible weight that has made living joyfully difficult.  And I’m not selfishly pawning my responsibility off on God – no, I’m actually obeying by trusting His plan and letting Him be in charge.

In the story Hannah remarked after having lived with mismanaging the responsibility for so long how it’s going to take some practice to keep the responsibility on God’s shoulders, shifting her focus to enjoying the blessings He gives during the process.  I think it will be difficult for me at first too; but I’m up for the challenge of continuing to hand the responsibility back over to God when I try to carry it for Him.  He knows it’s too heavy for me; that’s why He never asked me to carry it in the first place.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“God claims Earth and everything in it, God claims World and all who live on it.”

Psalm 24:1 (The Message)

 

I spoke earlier in My Relationship with God is Not a Race about how God wants us to enjoy the journey of getting to know Him instead of rushing through the lessons, anxious about the “pop quizzes” and wondering if we’re doing enough, fast enough. I also wrote another blog earlier this year, Obedience with Finances and Time, where I spoke about how God was teaching me that my time is just as valuable to Him as my finances.  He wants me to make good use of my time just like He wants me to spend and budget our finances wisely as well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time and making good use of my time.  I even fasted, wanting to draw closer to God because of my desire to go into the next season, the second half of 2017, making sure to only say “yes” to God’s best for my schedule and learning how to say “no” to what’s not His best for my life at this stage.  And it was only after I started fasting and digging in deeper than I realized that doesn’t encompass just work related activities – it includes everything in my life.

I was emailing a friend and we were talking about one of our favorite shared interests: books.  She was telling me about these great books she’s reading and I was sharing with her some great books I’m reading and telling her about the long list I have written down of books I’m waiting to reserve at the library because of the 20 books I have on my shelf that I haven’t read yet… and that’s when it hit me.  All the books I’m referring to are great books to read.  I know I will read important truths that I can put into practice.  However, when it becomes more work and more stressful to read them, then I know it’s not God’s best “yes” for my life.

So, I decided, after reading as many of the books I have on my shelf, slowly, as I can before their due date, I’m going to start reserving the nonfiction books one at a time and savoring them, getting as much out of them as possible before moving on to the next book.  And, I’m going to continue to ask God to speak to me regarding my time, my schedule, my life, so that I learn how to say “yes” to His best and say “no” to everything else, kindly but firmly.  It won’t be easy.  I love books and coffee and ministry and doing things with family and friends and seem to never have enough.  However, I think this will be a great way for God to teach me contentment, satiety, self control and delayed gratification.  Those are great qualities to model to my children and to implement regularly into my life.

I’m learning that giving God my time is more than just my schedule.  It’s everything in my life that effects my schedule – including when I go shopping, what books are on my “to be read” list, giving myself permission to watch a family movie, etc.  I want to enjoy my journey with my Father.  And I can’t do that very well when I’m stretched too thin or stressed out by self-imposed goals that were never part of my Father’s plan for my life to begin with.  I’m gladly giving Him my time because I know I will receive so many blessings in return for that obedience.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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