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Archive for November, 2017

Joy in the Big

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” John 16:23-24 (The Message)

 

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how God has been inviting me to experience joy in life again.  I hate admitting it, but I had stopped letting myself feel anything for many years because it just hurt too much… and I was afraid that if I allowed myself to feel happy or joyful, I was setting myself up for even more pain. It became easier to just stop feeling altogether and switch to survival mode.  However, survival mode isn’t fun.  My Heavenly Father knew that and He started to slowly invite me to start feeling again because He knew there was more to this life than pain… He offers true joy.

I started a blessing journal about four years ago which helps me say “thank You” and remember that every good thing I have comes from Him.  I’ve been mindfully trying to find joy in those things this year.  Here are just a few:

Waking up next to my best friend every morning.  Having a few extra minutes to share a laugh, pray together and cuddle before beginning our day. Sitting next to him on the couch, drinking a cup of delicious coffee while we watch the weather together for five minutes. It’s may be only five minutes but it’s time together before we both go our separate ways.

While I would welcome any child into our household, I’m blessed that God chose me to be the mother of these children.  Taking a minute to truly appreciate each of their unique personalities, traits and gifts that make up “them.”  Even being thankful for the noise… reminding myself multiple times that someday I’ll miss it.

I used to struggle with finding joy in my work because I have the heart of a stay at home mom.  However, I am truly grateful for my boss, I enjoy what I do and even the challenges that help me grow and develop my skills.  I enjoy the people I’ve met and the flexible schedule which allows me to give my boss my best without sacrificing my family.

While I still don’t completely know the path God has planned regarding my ministry, He has been revealing more and more.  And while the unknown can be scary or cause worry, I am choosing joy in the moment – joy in each article or blog or book I get to write, joy in the connections I make with people God puts on my path, joy in the journey.

Joy in the moments I get to spend with extended family.  There is no guarantee of tomorrow for any of us, and I want to live a life of no regrets.  God has been gently reminding me of the blessing of relationships.  Last year He told me to stop writing and invest that time in my family.  I think it was to teach me to slow down and take time for the people I love.  I have been intentional about it again this year and it brings joy.  There is a time to work hard and there is also a time to play… playing can be quite fun.

What are some of the “bigs” in your life that bring joy?

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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Available the beginning of December,
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Joy in the Moment

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (NIV)

 

I’ve spoken many times about how Tigger used to live in our house but then was pushed aside when Eyeore came to visit.  However, Eyeore took up residence and I didn’t have the energy to kick him out.  God has gently and lovingly been talking to me about evicting him for the past two years.  And while I listened and thought it was a great idea to give him notice, I didn’t seem to have a plan or any real follow through until God decided to make “joy” my word for this year.

I’ve been reflecting this past year on why it’s so hard for me to give myself permission to have fun.  Why I take life so seriously all the time.  I started remembering when our house was filled with laughter and it was back when our oldest two were a toddler and a baby.  I ran a daycare out of our home during that period of time and was really living a life of joy.  I loved what I did.  It didn’t seem fair that people had to pay me to be a mom to a houseful of kids 50-60 hours a week.

However, I think it might have been more than that.  For the most part, children are naturally happy.  They are discovering new things all the time and life is just fun.  Going to the grocery store is an adventure for them.  Playing outside becomes a chance to reenact their favorite movie or TV show or superhero.  It’s very hard to be unhappy in a houseful of kids.  A little one’s giggles are priceless because they are so full of innocence and unreserved joy.  It was during that period in our lives that I lost my innocence… and Eyeore came to stay.  It was during that time in our lives we suffered a miscarriage and pregnancy wasn’t innocent anymore.  It was during that time my husband went from being healthy to unable to get out of bed in the course of an evening and the innocence of a healthy marriage was gone.

While others have suffered much worse situations than we found ourselves in, I think that was when I first started to lose my joy.  While I’d experienced devastating situations throughout my childhood and early adulthood, the enemy knew exactly where to land his deadly blows because he knew my weak spots.

God’s been wooing me with His love for quite some time now.  As I mentioned in Sometimes Joy Takes Practice, He had to teach me grace, then hope, then peace before He could introduce true joy.  He had to heal my fear and then my depression before I could start to remember what joy felt like and experience His joy. When God restores, He doesn’t do it halfway.  He isn’t satisfied with halfway healed, halfway successful.  In fact, He isn’t even satisfied with completely healed back to one’s original condition.  Nope.  Our God is much better than that.  In Isaiah 61:7 (The Message) it says, “Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever
.” When He restores, when He heals, it is written in the Bible multiple places that He restores double what the enemy stole.  Not what was lost, not what was misplaced – what was stolen. The enemy reaches in and steals what is rightfully ours through our Heavenly Father, and when God chooses to restore, He doesn’t do it halfway or completely – He does it “and then some.”  More than.  Double.

I never thought I’d have to relearn how to relax and have joy, but I do.  I have to learn that the guilt I feel is false and tell myself to relax and live in the moment.  However, of all the assignments I’ve been given by my loving Father, I have to admit, this one is kind of fun, if I let go and let Tigger back in.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!…”

Proverbs 3:5-12 (The Message)

 

The last few days together we’ve been talking about the two most important tools someone needs in their survival arsenal: Knowing who you are in Christ and growing a relationship that has strong roots with our Heavenly Father.

However, you might be wondering right about now why it’s so important to have these tools.  Will someone really use them in life?  In my belief, these two tools, when learned and applied properly will help in every situation a person finds themselves in.

My son and I were discussing some acts on America’s Got Talent and whether or not we agreed with the judge’s decisions.  Melanie B. told one contestant “no” which seemed quite harsh compared to a 13-year-old who had a good singing voice but didn’t necessarily deserve the standing ovation she received.  I made a comment that, like life, it boiled down to being a popularity contest.  And as I was thinking about life being a popularity contest, when one finds themselves in that situation personally, if they are grounded in Christ – know their true identity in Christ, maybe the disappointment of not getting picked won’t sting quite as badly because they are secure in God’s love and the purpose He has for their life, trusting that maybe America’s Got Talent was to be a fun experience but not their golden ticket.

I have a married friend who consistently walks out the example of godly submission to her husband.  Without her saying a word, I do a checkup with my own marriage, making sure I’m submitting regularly to my husband in the way that pleases our Heavenly Father.  Why am I willing to submit to my husband?  Because of my desire to grow my relationship with God and as part of that hiding His word in my heart, I have learned that submission, when done God’s way, is the right way and brings blessings.  Choosing friends who also desire a close relationship with Abba further encourage me to continue to choose wisely.

Financial problems?  Sickness?  Parenting issues?  When we’re secure in who we are in Christ and consistently build a stronger relationship with Him through daily Bible reading, prayer and listening to His voice in our lives, every single issue that we will face in life has an answer that will bring peace despite the momentary pain.  While the enemy wants nothing more than to distract, derail or confuse us – if we take the time, ahead of time, to grow deep spiritual roots and find out who we are in Christ, we will succeed far more often than not.  We will become mature adults who are able to fulfill the purpose God placed on our lives when He created us.  We will be called good and faithful servants when we stand before Him someday and we will enjoy more blessings in this earthly life than if we center ourselves on what the world thinks about us and don’t take the time to study God’s way of walking through life.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, if you will choose the two above tools and put them into practice daily, you will be successful in overcoming.  God promises to help those who seek Him with their whole heart.  And God never lies.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, Trusts God always,  Always looks for the best,
Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” I Corinthians 13:3-7 (The Message)

 

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States.  It’s officially the beginning of the holiday season which lasts from Thanksgiving Day through January 1st.  It’s a time when we are able to slow down some and possibly spend time with friends and family that we may not have seen much throughout the year.

There are countless jokes and more than enough movies made about the dysfunctional relationships of some families. When I think about these movies, this year I’m focused on the mom in each of the families.  Each child that she calls her own has unique likes and dislikes, personality and preferences. Then come the spouses of her children and possibly grandchildren – again, all coming with their own interests, likes/dislikes and personalities.  That’s a lot of personalities colliding with each other under one roof.

However, what the mom focuses on is having all her family around her, hoping everyone will just get along. Moms embrace the different personalities that grace her dinner table because she watched each personality grow and develop over the years. Moms celebrate the successes, wipe tears shed over disappointments and give hope when needed.  Moms don’t mind extra chores or more noise or cheerful chaos because it means her table is full and memories are being made.

That got me thinking. How much more is that God’s goal for us? After all, He’s the best example of a loving parent. I believe God wants the same thing for us.  As families. As a country. As a world. I also believe He knows better than the rest of us just how hard that goal is to attain.  We all have different likes and dislikes, personalities, schedules and ways of doing things.  And when we focus on our differences and protecting what’s “rightfully ours,” problems are bound to surface. But, when we choose to show love using Jesus as our example, we see less differences and more similarities.  We use our unique personality styles to complement each other instead of driving a wedge between us and others. We start becoming “other” focused and serving instead of “me” focused and taking.

I believe that’s a choice God wants us to make. To make love a lifestyle. Not just during the holidays with family members around the dinner table, but as a way of life with family, friends and others God places into our lives. Not backing down on Biblical principles but choosing the loving way to point others back to Him. Not having to always be “right” but being willing to listen and try to understand where someone from another viewpoint is coming from as well as why that view is important to them. Taking that lifestyle of love and walking in it every day.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours.  May your day be filled with blessings and God’s favor and may you be surrounded by His love – whether by yourself or in a house full of many different personalities.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Righteous chews on wisdom like a dog on a bone, rolls virtue around on his tongue.
His heart pumps God’s Word like blood through his veins; his feet are as sure as a cat’s.”

Psalm 37:30-31 (The Message)

 

When I look at the journey I’ve traveled in life, it looks nothing like what I imagined it would when I was a child.  When I was in second grade I wanted to be a stay at home mom, grow our own food and raise our own animals, I would have children in school and always a baby or two at home as my husband would go off to work every day.  As I got older, I figured I better have a backup plan, but still thought I would get married young, have only two children and work as a child psychologist.

Thankfully God took some of the desires of my heart and has given me a life that is far more rich and blessed than either of the above.  I got married a little later than I had planned, but God blessed my choice of waiting by giving me the best husband for me.  I married my best friend and wouldn’t want to go through life with anyone but him by my side.  While God did bless our family with two children, He added two more to the blessings – one waiting in Heaven and another who brought joy back into our house after losing his sibling too soon.  I do get to stay at home with my kids, being their primary caregiver, but in addition God has blessed me with a work from home atmosphere that has included many different career paths – all leading toward the ministry He hasn’t completely revealed yet.

While the blessings are many in the path God has allowed me to travel, there has been quite a bit of heartache and challenges as well too.  Disease.  Miscarriage. Job loss.  Financial issues.  And as a result, I realize that without a tool belt equipped with the right tools, the journey traveled would have been much more difficult.

As a mother, I would be negligent if I didn’t use the wisdom God has given me through the above to offer the essential tools needed for success in my children’s unique journeys.  And I love my kids way too much to keep my hands off and just hope they don’t run into any problems they will have to navigate.

Two of the most essential tools, in my opinion, that will help a person succeed throughout life are to identify who they are in Christ, what their identity is in their Father instead of the world’s definition and to have the opportunity, while still living at home under the protection of parents, to grow strong roots in a relationship with their Father.  A relationship with God is ongoing and will never reach a finish line until we die and stand before Him one day. However, the opportunity to establish healthy habits of reading God’s word, learning to hear His voice for our own personal lives and developing a strong prayer life is easier to establish and maintain before the daily responsibility of juggling marriage, kids, a full time job and maintaining a household begins.

In my opinion, while life is hard and I can’t promise my kids a trouble-free journey, by offering these tools and showing them how to use them, they have the chance to succeed in every aspect of their lives: in all relationships, in their pursuit of learning, in their career, in their marriage, as parents, etc.  And while I cannot force them to take or use these tools, I can encourage, guide and give examples of how they have helped me in my life.

Everyone has a survival tool belt strapped around their waists – the question is what tools are in your belt?

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.” James 1:5 (The Message)

 

I was having a conversation with one of our children the other day and God gave me this analogy to use which I think works well in many situations, not just for kids.  He has been teaching me a lot lately about preparing my children for adulthood/independence and I think the biggest lessons being taught are from God teaching me the right way to let go.

I love new beginnings, a change to evaluate where I am and to prepare for where I’m going.  God gave me the image of a tool belt.  We have three children, each in various stages of childhood, and so their tool belts all look different.  Our younger child has a tool belt where we’ve supplied most of the tools.  He is still in the stage where we are teaching him good habits, instilling in him our values and holding his hand as he walks down the path of life.

Our older two, while at both ends of high school, have tool belts that look different still.  Our oldest has had the opportunity for the last four years to start building his own tool belt with his own actions, choices, decisions and values.  Our middle child is at the beginning of her high school career and therefore, I used the analogy that she has an empty tool belt that she gets to start filling with her own tools.

Because she’s only in high school and not living independently yet, as her mom I am here to help guide what tools should go in the tool belt, go with her to the store to help pick out her tools for the tool belt and in some cases, insist that until certain tools have been placed in the tool belt she won’t be able to participate in any activities that require the tools, but the choice of whether or not the tools actually make it to the tool belt and then get used regularly is solely up to her.  Her older brother has already experienced this aspect of the tool belt and now is just adding additional tools, becoming an expert in using the tools already in his possession and even, at times, sharing his tools with others who need them.

At the stage our older two are in, I can’t force them to use any of the tools that are in their tool belt. I can’t force them to place certain tools in their tool belt.  However, I can restrict privileges and experiences until I see the tools in there and see the results of their regular use.

While my approach to parenting may seem extreme to some and a little too hands off to others, our ultimate goal is all the same: to grow healthy, independent adults who have the tools needed to build that relationship with the only One who can help them thrive in life.

Come back next time as I continue sharing from my heart the reason I feel so strongly about what tools belong in their tool belt.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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