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Archive for October, 2017

‘Because a loveless world,’ said Jesus, ‘is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.’” John 14:23-24 (The Message)

 

In the post titled God Burned the Blanket – Part III, I spoke about how God had used the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017 to heal some areas in my life that needed His touch: food addiction and some emotional heart issues.  However, just because God healed them, I wasn’t walking in that freedom and healing so I haven’t been receiving the full blessing of that healing.  I had started to go backwards instead because without daily walking in obedience, healing doesn’t always look healthy.

There are times when God will heal us immediately, instantly and we will be able to walk in that freedom from the first day of healing until death.  I have heard testimonies of that type of healing from alcoholism and have recently experienced it myself from the heaviness of depression.

There are other times God will heal us but will require daily, weekly obedience to walk in that freedom for healing to remain.  And this, my friends, is what I’ve been struggling with the summer of 2017.  I know that God has healed my food addiction.  I don’t even like the food that I eat at times.  Other times, I enjoy all food God has created and am able to eat within the limits that God allows.  I’ve also grown with God to the point where I hate when I put food and its temptations above my love for Him.  I struggle in the area of eating too much, eating the wrong things and eating out of emotional responses instead of physical hunger.  I believe that God allows me to have this push-pull because it keeps me dependent upon Him and His strength, knowing I can’t do this alone.

However, that doesn’t mean God has left me hanging in this area either.  He has given me some very clear guidelines that He has instructed me to follow.  Guidelines that a four-year-old could understand.  Because when God gives me a direction, He doesn’t mince words.  I can understand precisely what He is asking of me.  He wants me to succeed more than I want to succeed.  He doesn’t create a treasure map with hidden clues to find the answer… He lays out clearly what He wants followed.

If I choose to do it His way, then I will walk in freedom.  If I choose to do it my way, I will continue to struggle.  My choice.  His way?  Freedom.  My way?  Constant struggling.  It should be a no brainer, but instead I’ve spent the summer fighting against my fleshly desires to do it my way even though I know my way makes me miserable. I want His blessings.  I want to live in the freedom being offered.  I’m choosing to take the long way to the right path.  While God’s love never diminishes no matter how long the detour takes, I can’t step into His blessings until I choose to do it His way.  While my head understands that, there is something stubborn inside of me that hasn’t completely surrendered yet.

Healing doesn’t always look healthy.  Only I can choose when I’ll get off the detour I’ve been on and just obey.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?  Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.” Psalm 42:11 (The Message)

 

I’ve been sharing for the past two weeks about how God burned the blanket of depression that had weighed heavily on my shoulders for years.  Within the first two weeks of that healing, the enemy tried to derail me with circumstances that were less than ideal and I wondered if the blanket was returning.

I braced myself for its weight to settle back down.  I reminded myself with Scripture that when God delivers a person, it’s for good, not a temporary Band-Aid.  And I praised God for the healing that He had instigated, He had given, choosing to believe it was permanent, not temporary.

Then God reminded me of a healing He had performed in my life in 2016, a healing that wasn’t on my radar but one God knew I needed.  I speak about the journey of healing from a fear of winter driving in Spoken from the Heart: Walking in Freedom.  God took an over 15 year fear of winter driving and healed me from it, one I had learned to accept as normal but He chose to release me from its grip.  God brought to mind the memory of how I felt the first time I realized what it felt like to be “normal” when driving in snow and ice.  Instead of having that death grip on the steering wheel and living in fear that we would all die every time a snowflake fell, I drove cautiously and defensively but could look up and even acknowledge the beauty of the season.  That didn’t mean I actually enjoyed every single winter drive I took, but it did mean that I had graduated to living with the normal dose of caution that most Michiganders face with the elements.

It was then I was able to stop being afraid that the blanket of depression was going to settle back onto my shoulders when I least expected it.  It was then I could praise God with more than just my lips but with my entire self.  It was then I could look up and start to notice how green everything was around me.  How alive and… yes, full of joy I started to feel on occasion.  I started to feel joy.  A little bit here and a little bit there.  Not always but I noticed that I started to smile more, laugh harder, and that my smile and my laughter reached my eyes.  I didn’t live with the heaviness I had lived with for so long. I was living lighter… and lighter felt joyful.

It wasn’t instantaneous.  I still get sad.  But there is a distinct difference between a bad day with sadness and the heavy weight of depression.  I still am burdened but it’s a different kind of burden. I don’t feel hopeless anymore… the burdens I feel are for people who I so desperately love and want them to want to know Jesus personally, but they don’t. It’s for people who seem trapped in situations that don’t want to break free.  It’s a burden and a brokenness for people and situations… very different from the heaviness of all consuming depression.  And it feels good.

I finally got up the nerve to share with my husband the freedom God gave me from depression.  He allowed me to share with him my feelings.  I’m pretty sure he’s noticed the lack of certain statements that used to pepper our conversations constantly, statements that stemmed from the depression and not from my true self.  I hope he notices that I feel more connected to him emotionally than I have for years.  I believe that’s because that barrier of depression that was between us has been burned.  Not lifted… burned.

At the time I’m writing this, it’s been almost eight weeks since God burned the blanket and I’m ready to share that freedom with you.  I can say with honesty that it’s gone.  Burned.  Ashes.  It’s never coming back.  Do I still need to choose peace at times?  Yes.  Do I get sad and feel burdened?  Yes.  But I believe I’m now feeling sadness and burdens the way a person without depression feels them – deeply, with a sense to bring them to God and lay them at His feet and then the ability to do just that.  Lay them at His feet where they belong. Where they can be answered because the One who answers has them.  And it feels good.

Do I know why God chose to burn my blanket instead of using medication or diet or exercise to control it?  No, I don’t.  But I believe that because He chose to do that, He wanted me to give Him the glory for that healing and let others know it was Him who did it.  And as I love to say, because it’s the truth, “what our Father is willing to do for one of us, He’s just waiting to be invited to do and much more for you.  All you have to do is ask.”

While God burned the blanket after two days of consistent prayer, it took four years of bringing this burden before Him for me to be in the place where I could hear His invitation, dig deeper, and recognize the true miracle that He performed.  And when I say God gets all the glory – I mean that with every breath I’ve been given.  God burned my blanket and it is gone.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God.” Psalm 40: 1-2 (The Message)

 

I’ve been talking for the past two conversations about how God completely removed the blanket of depression I had been wearing for over 40 years.  And how He had replaced it with His peace.  However, I was left with the question of what to do with this healing.  Do I share it with others?  Would they even believe me since it’s not something I really talked about?  Would my immediate family and/or extended family notice a difference in me?  What did God want from me with this miracle?

At first, I didn’t say anything to anyone.  I guess I wanted to see whether or not people would notice the difference that I felt.  And to be honest there was a part of me that was scared the blanket would settle back down, unexpectedly, as it had in the past.  I’m sure that hurt God’s heart that while I was praising Him and thanking Him for the miracle of a burned blanket, I was still waiting for the other preverbal shoe to fall.  I’m not proud of myself for that.

Part of why I reacted that way was this:  I believe God had been working in my life in regard to my food addictions the previous summer as well as filling the giant hole in my heart which I shared about Him healing earlier this spring.  However, I had been failing miserably to walk in that healing and therefore, the progress I had made in both of those areas had gone backwards.  I guess I was afraid that since I couldn’t walk in obedience in those areas, deliverance from this area was contingent on my actions as well.

However, there was a distinct difference between the two.  The first two things I talked about require daily disobedience. I am healed of my food addictions and the hole in my heart – but I have to daily walk out that healing through obedience.  God didn’t require obedience from me to heal my depression.  He chose through His mercy to heal me without medication, exercise or diet because that is the avenue He chose.  He invited me into this healing… He prompted me to pray for deliverance.  He answered that obedience by burning the blanket.  I did what He asked – ask Him to reveal the underlying issue, pray for deliverance from the issue and have faith that He would do what He said.

For the food addiction and the healing of my heart emotions, God gave me specific guidelines He wanted me to follow in the food choices I make, with believing and walking in the healing He gave me.  Again, that was the avenue God chose.

I continued to feel that consistent peace.  I never got the overall warmth that some people describe.  I wasn’t overcome with emotions.  God simply replaced that heavy blanket with the lightness of His peace which completely surrounds me but never weighs me down. And I knew what that felt like because of all the practice He provided in 2016.

However, as I’ve learned in my Christian walk, the enemy is not happy when freedom from oppression occurs.  During the first two weeks of my healing, God allowed circumstances in my life that were less than ideal and I immediately thought, “Uh oh, is the blanket going to settle on my shoulders again?”

Come back next time and I will continue to share my journey.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” Psalm 34:17 (NIV)

Last time we were together, I shared how God has been talking to me in deeper ways throughout 2017.  One of the things God invited me into conversation about was to remember, or fully acknowledge, that depression had been a part of my life since childhood.  As I shared yesterday, I never wanted to acknowledge that I was “depressed” because I was afraid of being judged.  However, it was something that had been with me off and on throughout childhood, my college days and into adulthood.  I remember having a conversation with a good friend and she remarked how “whenever you get down, Cheri, it doesn’t last long.”  I assumed that meant I was healthy, not that a statement like that was affirming the depression I wore.

It wasn’t until the past four years that I have been able to identify the feeling as a heavy blanket that settles onto my shoulders and stays there until… it lifts, only to come back when I least expect it.  And it was after God revealed all that information to me that I realized I had a choice.  I didn’t have to stay that way.

Throughout this journey in 2017, I have the privilege of praying with a sister in Christ (SIC) daily.  We begin most mornings praying together and bringing our concerns before our Father.  After this revelation from God, I felt led to ask my SIC to commit to helping me pray daily for 30 days for God to remove this blanket.  I’m not sure why I felt God leading me in this direction since I had prayed multiple times in the past with no real relief, but I did and so I reached out and asked.  She readily agreed and we began, praying along with our other requests for this blanket of depression to be taken away.

We began praying on Monday, May 22nd for God to remove the blanket.  Tuesday, May 23rd we prayed again and this time, God told my SIC that the blanket I had been wearing had been burned.  Not given away, not thrown away but burned.  Ashes. It cannot come back.  God answered a four year prayer one day after I committed to praying for 30 days straight.

From listening to my pastor’s testimony about his healing and hearing others’ testimonies about being healed, I expected to feel a warmth travel through my body or to feel joy or happiness or… whatever the opposite of depression is.  I at least expected to feel the light sensations (feelings) I would feel when the blanket would be temporarily lifted before it would eventually settle back down again.  I felt none of that.  But what I did feel was… peace.  The kind of peace that only God can give.  And I knew exactly what that peace felt like because God took all of 2016 to teach me how to ask for and receive His peace.

Come back next time and I will share what happened next… now that I was living a life without the blanket He burned.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.” Psalm 9:9 (The Message)

 

My relationship with God has deepened during 2017.  While I still hear His still small voice, sometimes as a whisper, other times as a billboard, He has begun to use other means to get my attention too.  God invited me this past spring to dig deeper about a hurt He knew I struggled with and desperately wanted healed.

I have suffered off and on throughout my life with depression.  However, I have always been hesitant to acknowledge it because I was afraid of being judged.  I figured since I was still capable of working, taking care of my family and I wasn’t on medication, I didn’t qualify to acknowledge this heavy blanket that would settle over my shoulders for no apparent reason.  I would justify that it was situational because our family was going through difficulties and “who wouldn’t be sad or feel hopeless at times?”  It was normal, I was fine… but, I wasn’t.

I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I didn’t want to be put on medication because medication and I have a long history of strange side effects.** I didn’t have enough will power (or so I thought) of sticking with a strict diet to eliminate foods that could contribute to depression or an exercise program to help combat depressive symptoms naturally.  In fact, one of the first things that drew me to my church was the testimony our pastor gave of how God freed him from a lifelong burden of depression. I wanted that.  I didn’t know how to get it, but the Holy Spirit nudged me enough to take notice to say, “I want what he has.”  I started praying for God to heal me… supernaturally, with earthly resources – I didn’t care how, I just wanted the blanket gone. I prayed for almost four years and instead of seeing improvement, it seemed to get worse.

It wasn’t until God invited me into a conversation with Him this past spring that I began to realize just how much depression had stolen from my life. Like I said, I was a functioning depressed person… but God showed me I really wasn’t.  While I still checked things off my “to do” list, I was missing out on a lot.  I wasn’t fully giving myself to my husband or kids.  I couldn’t.  When the heavy blanket would settle over my shoulders, usually catching me off guard, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other.  I wasn’t really alive and at times I would even say I was barely surviving.  It stole my joy.  And I felt guilty that I couldn’t “snap out of it.”  I felt guilty I couldn’t pray it away.  I didn’t know what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t just “be happy.”

I’ve talked multiple times in the past here on this blog about Eyeore moving into my house and pushing Tigger out. This spring, God opened my eyes to realize it was more than just situations our family was dealing with, it was the blanket of depression.  While there was a type of pattern to the blanket settling over me, it was still random enough that I never knew what would trigger it or how long it would last.  I would still smile on the outside, but I knew the smile didn’t reach my eyes because it couldn’t penetrate my heart.

Come back next time as I continue to share what God showed me.

 

**Author’s Note: Do I think that all depression can be healed by God supernaturally?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe that God only heals depression supernaturally? No.  Do I believe He will (or can) sometimes heal it with the help of medication?  Yes, I do.  I believe that God uses many different ways to bring healing into people’s lives.  I believe that the most important thing a Christ follower can do is listen to and obey the direction of healing that God prompts him or her to follow.

Healing can look different for everyone.  Some are healed through medication, some are healed supernaturally.  Some are healed through exercise and strict diets.  I just knew, for me, medication is not my friend.  I was briefly put on medication when I was in college and the side effects outweighed any possible benefit.  God allowed me to contract meningitis and through that illness, I was stopped cold turkey from the medication and began a long recovery process from the complications of the multiple spinal taps performed.  I knew, for me, medication was not the best option in my healing from depression.  I have many friends, though, who have found healing and help from medication with their symptoms.  There is no judgement in the above testimony – just my own personal experience with medications which target the issues of depression.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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“God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

Romans 2:6-8 (NIV)

 

Obedience can, at times, be hard.  Obedience, also at times, can be lonely.  However, when we choose to obey God, obedience is always right.  Every. Single. Time.

I want to offer some encouragement today if you’re facing a choice to obey God’s word or compromise with what feels good.  While we may have the privilege of living on this earth for approximately 70 to 80+ years, those years are but a grain of sand when compared to eternity.  This particular choice that you are contemplating, while the decision you make could have a rippling effect that lasts far longer, more than likely the choice itself will be forgotten long before your 80+ years are over.

When we choose to do life God’s way, we receive a reward in Heaven that lasts forever.  When our choices aren’t understood by those we love, if they share a relationship with God as well, their eyes will be opened to the bigger picture of obedience when you’re sharing life with them for eternity.

When looked at under those circumstances, does that make choosing obedience any easier?  What if I said knowing that the pain you will experience from dying to your will and choosing God’s way is temporary, even if it lasts a day, a week, a month, a year compared to spending eternity hearing God say, “Well done My good and faithful servant?” Knowing that the choice you make today will please the God of the Universe forever, does that help?

While God doesn’t promise easy, He does promise that you will never be alone.  While at times difficult, your obedience could begin a legacy that will start a chain reaction of obedience for many future generations… or even better, your obedience could break the cycle of disobedience in your genealogy and begin a new line of obedience in your family tree.  And the Bible is very clear that God rewards obedience.  Our obedience keeps the flow between God’s blessings and our lives open.

And, our obedience changes us. While we can learn from our mistakes, when we choose to obey the first time, it strengthens our own relationship with God, deepens that connection we have with Him and allows Him to use us in powerful ways for His purpose.  There are many advantages to obedience.

One will never go wrong when choosing obedience to God and His Word.  It’s important to remember that in all circumstances, obedience is always right.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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