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Archive for January, 2018

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’…” Matthew 5:37a (NIV)

 

In 2017, God has been teaching me how to be intentional with my “yes” and firm with my “no.”  Okay, to be completely honest, this is a lesson God has been inviting me to learn for about five years now, but I’m finally starting to grasp, implement and see the blessings that come with obedience to doing life His way. And my pastor’s sermon a few month’s ago reinforced that I’m finally understanding, obeying and reaping those rewards through peace and yes, even joy.

For the past five years I’ve consistently held up to three, sometimes four jobs at a time, not including my primary role as wife and mother.  As a result, I’ve had to give up a lot of things and I’ve done so willingly, because I knew that I knew that I knew I was obeying God and was where He was calling me to be, for that season.  I won’t lie and say it was always easy.  In fact, I remember distinctly when I first accepted one job, the enemy tried to get me to second guess my decision by making that particularly time each month extremely difficult to fulfill my duties for that position.  However, I knew that I knew that I knew I was where God had planted me and eventually the enemy left that area alone, for the most part.

However, today I want to talk about what I learned about being intentional and how I’m starting to see the blessings from that intentionality.  In the spring of 2016, God invited me to take a break from my grueling writing schedule.  I would still write and post blogs twice a week, but all other writing was to be put aside, and I honestly didn’t know if God would give it back to me or not… but He invited me to truly take time with my family, make them a priority again.  That season was wonderful.

In January 2017, God did indeed give me back my writing and it’s been busier than ever, with many projects simultaneously being worked on, but as a result of the God-imposed hiatus, I have chosen to listen to His promptings more often about being intentional in every area of my life.  Ministry?  Unless God invites me to participate, He has someone else who is better qualified to step in.  Job opportunities?  If God says “yes,” then I’m dedicated 100%, but if God says “no,” then I politely decline and realize God has someone else ready to fill that spot.

Living that way may seem scary, but it’s actually the opposite.  I am filled with His peace (a word I spent all of 2016 learning the difference between His peace and worldly peace) that by being intentional with my choices, I am making room in my schedule to do my best at what God has planned for me.  I’m not as stressed (most of the time) and I have the time to keep my relationship with God as my top priority and then keep my husband next and right underneath him my children as my next priority in life.  Then comes my jobs/ministry.  By being intentional and listening to God’s still small voice in what to say “yes” to and what to pass along to someone else, I have time to be intentional in relationships again.  That is another lesson God taught me in 2017.  He is all about relationships and He purposefully gave me the people in my circle to build a relationship with.  When I’m too busy completing projects and accepting jobs that He never intended for me to accept or accomplish, then that takes away from the relationships that He did desire for me to build.

When I continually ask God for His best “yes” for my life, He never disappoints.  By learning to be more intentional in how I choose to live life, the more peace and yes, the more joy I experience.  And that, my friends, is the mom I want my kids to remember.  One who is peaceful and joyful because I trust my life to our Heavenly Father.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 (NIV)

 

At the beginning of the school year, we had to take our car in to get the wheel well welded.  The inner wheel well had rusted away and everyone we called wanted twice as much as one auto body repair shop in town.  When I went down in person to see about the repairs, the owner personally came out and reassured me he had worked on this particular issue on this particular model numerous times and it was a one day job… in and out.  We arranged how we were going to get four drivers where they needed to go with only two cars and were ready to roll.

What began as a one day job turned into a whole week job.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault… problems arise and need to be dealt with.  However, because of this experience, I learned three valuable spiritual lessons.

First, if the repair had gone as planned, I would have paid my bill and not looked back.  I would have appreciated the great service and considered taking my vehicle to them in the future but it would have been a blip on the radar of my life.  However, because of the problems that came up and the way the auto body shop handled those difficulties – full of integrity and character, they have my loyalty as well as my referrals.  Because of the difficulties, I was able to see the type of people they were instead of just having a friendly interaction and moving on.

Second, the difficulties that arose actually bonded us together more.  We had more interaction, more time to get to know each other and it became more than a customer-business relationship.  Not to say we’ve started to invite each other over to one another’s house on the weekends, but if I see them in the store, I’m more apt to say “hi” because of the extra time we spent together than if I had interacted much less through a normal repair.

Third, God gave me an opportunity through this experience to model His example to the repair shop.  I could have gotten upset, I could have thrown a fit or I could have simply accepted that life doesn’t follow a straight line and do my part to model Jesus for others.  If the repairs had gone easily, they might have seen a “friendly person” but they might not have seen a fuller example of Christ.

While nobody enjoys when life doesn’t go as planned, looking back on this situation, I’m glad that there were problems.  It gave me a chance to remember how important it is for others to see Christ in me daily… whether it’s because of rusted out wheel wells that need welded or at the grocery store or whatever the situation.  I want others to see more of Jesus and less of me.  I’m grateful for the lessons I learned from the auto body repair shop… and hope to keep using them often.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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The Blessings Box

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 (NIV)

 

I’m not sure how the tradition started, but almost a decade ago I started sharing my early morning coffee with our bus driver.  I think it’s because coffee always tastes better shared with a friend and our bus drivers are friends around here.  That gradually morphed into sharing goodies and treats (and yes, sometimes even coffee) with teachers at our children’s elementary schools.  Unfortunately, once they entered middle school and beyond, class parties and celebrating birthdays, etc. is done so I’m not at their schools as often and don’t have the opportunity to bless those teachers too.

As the 2017 school year started this year, I realized that the number of teachers to bless at our youngest’s school had grown and he and I couldn’t carry the treats in our bare hands anymore without some help.  That’s when God whispered to me about having a blessings box, and He even told me exactly what He wanted me to use.

I have a few photo boxes laying around for a project that I haven’t completed yet.  One of them has a Christmas theme with “peace and joy” written on it.  This is significant for two reasons:  One – Jesus Christ is the ultimate gift that God gave to the world and He is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Second – the words “peace” and “joy” were given to me two separate years as my “word for the year” and having those words looking at me all year long is a great reminder where “peace” and “joy” truly come from.

So, in September, as our youngest and I were preparing the treats to take into school, I told him what God had whispered to me a few minutes earlier and after explaining why we would be using a Christmas photo box all year long, he was as excited as I was.

We don’t give blessings every week; however, I hope they are often enough for the teachers to feel appreciated and loved – not just by us, but loved by their Heavenly Father.  We don’t want any credit for the blessings given – we want instead for the receiver to be pointed to the One who always blesses us and wants more than anything to have a personal relationship with each one of us. We want Jesus to shine through us to those around us.  And what better way than to start by blessing others?

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

 

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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 (NIV)

Every year when the kids go back to school the house gets too quiet and I get a little lonely. Two things that help to lift my spirits are a good cup of coffee (or two or three or…) and a beautiful smelling candle. There is something about smell that brings me comfort.

I was talking to my husband about buying a candle, but that’s as far as it went. I have a hard time splurging on myself when it’s not a necessity, so I thought about going to the store and seeing if there were any I would want and then saving up to buy one in a few weeks. But the first week of school is always so busy and this year we were having car issues too so I hadn’t even made it that far.

However, my husband is someone who listens with his heart.  Three days later, he surprised me with this beautiful candle. I didn’t have to wait until I could go to the store and pick one out myself, I didn’t have to save up for it and the weather this year for the first week of school was more fall-like than “end of summer hot” so it was a perfect surprise!

Today as I’m working, I’m smelling my husband’s love burning on the counter, waiting for my family to come home so we can all be together and create some more fun memories together this weekend.

But that’s not the only way love smells in my house.  It’s also in the coffee my husband (or my children) surprise me with or let me pick out “just because.”  It’s in the coffee my prayer partner sends so that we can “drink coffee together and pray” daily for our family, friends and all the needs that cross our paths.  It’s in the beautiful flowers that my husband buys and plants in the planters outside our living room windows and then faithfully waters them when I forget so I can see and smell them all summer.  It’s in the baths my husband encourages me to take to relax and de-stress after long weeks.  It’s the cologne I smell as I kiss him goodbye which reminds me of when we were dating or a different cologne that takes me back to our wedding and subsequent honeymoon.  It’s the campfires that my husband surprises me with in our backyard because we have a long weekend and there’s nothing quite as relaxing as watching a fire while spending time with those you love.

It’s the big and little smells throughout the year – the scent of fresh rain which reminds me of lazy Sunday afternoons cuddled up with my family watching movies or reading quietly.  It’s the smell of peppermint coffee that forever takes me back to a blizzard when we all shoveled and then headed over to his parents’ house for breakfast and a fun day of playing games on our unexpected snow day off together.

I could keep going… but I’m sure you have your own list of what love smells like at your house.  Whatever the favorite scent, love is what makes it so unforgettable.

© 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 admit… I have a long way to go in the area of listening well.  I thought I was a good listener, but I realized lately I’m really not.  We dealt with an issue with one of our children recently and I was trying to understand the heart behind the issue.  The problem was… I’m not sure our child even knew the answer to that question.  Trying to solve the problem using knowledge I thought I had didn’t work.

It wasn’t until I took the time to get quiet with our child and started asking questions, then really listening to the answers I was given before I started to understand.  I thought I knew the answers to the questions I was asking.  I didn’t know the answers at all.  And that is when I realized I need to learn how to listen better.  Longer.  Deeper.

I think I’m the same way with my Heavenly Father.  If He starts to answer my prayers, do I think He’s finished or wait to listen for the whole answer?  Do I think I already know what He’s going to say and therefore don’t listen wholeheartedly or start to fashion my answer before He’s done speaking?

One of my words for 2018 is to be still… I know I have a problem with that.  I could use excess caffeine (and/or) sugar as an excuse, but the real issue is that sometimes, I’m afraid of what the answer is going to be if I sit and listen, truly listen.

Is He going to yell at me?  Tell me everything I’m doing wrong?  Have I failed Him yet again and is He going to point that out? What area in my life needs worked on now?

Not only do I need to work on my listening skills, but I need to work on my approach. God loves me.  He wants the best for me and sometimes that means putting me back on the right path.  Listening correctly the first time is the best, but since I’m still learning, sometimes He has to get my attention in other ways.

God wants to speak to me.  He truly does.  And I want to hear His voice.  I truly do.  I’m the one who needs to work on my listening skills.  He doesn’t need to work on how He speaks.  When I get quiet, just like I had to with our child so that I could really hear the heart behind the words, I need to get quiet with God and really hear His heart behind His message.

I’m definitely a work in progress in this area.  Both with my family and friends as well as with my Heavenly Father.  I’m glad He loves me enough to bring this flaw to my attention.  I’m looking forward to practicing the art of being still before God and hearing all that He wants to speak to me because I love when God speaks.  I need to remember that taking the time to listen pleases my Father and fills me with joy too.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” James 1:19 (The Message)

 

Several years ago God showed me I had improvements to make in the listening arena.  I thought, though, I was making progress with positive steps toward seeing improvement. I realized this fall, though, that I’m not as far along as I thought.

Listening requires more than just our ears tuned into the conversation.  Real, genuine listening involves watching body language, listening to tone, inflection and actual words spoken.  Listening even requires some physical touch (when appropriate) from us toward who we’re listening to in order to let the person know we’re fully engaged.  Listening is much more than just hearing.

This past fall showed me how much further I still need to go in this department.  We had a bit of a rough start to the school year with one of our children.  As a result, I was determined to answer the question why things took such a downward turn when they had been going so well. I thought I already knew the answer.  I had asked and received an answer… but it wasn’t until we chose to sit down with some popcorn and “meeting milk” that I was able to realize just how much I hadn’t been listening.  It was during this one-on-one time that I put away all distractions and truly listened with all my senses.

I saw the confusion on our child’s face mixed with some sadness.  I heard the frustration in the voice because even our child couldn’t completely describe the feelings being felt.  We touched knees as I asked hard questions and then waited for the true answers that took a little while to come.  I listened quietly to questions being asked of me so that I could honestly and truthfully answer those.

That afternoon opened my eyes to how much I still need to learn about true listening.  I hate to admit but since that time I still don’t reach the mark of true listening as often as I would like, although I hope I’m improving.  I also realized that each one of our children are very different and each one need to be listened to in unique, personalized ways.  While “meeting milk” works for one, frozen Coke’s work for another and something else for the third.  It’s our job as parents to determine the best way to listen to each of our children and then make a point to let them know they are important enough to be listened to that way.

I learned a valuable lesson this past fall… listening is so much more than simply hearing.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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I had the privilege of being a guest on Never… Ever… Give Up Hope, a radio show hosted by Carol Graham that is heard internationally.  She interviewed me about the circumstances of how I ended up publishing Hope During Heartache.

If you’re interested in listening, here is the link:  https://neverevergiveuphopenet.blogspot.ca/2018/01/there-can-be-hope-during-devastating.html

Thank you, Carol, for having me as your guest.  I enjoyed having a chance to share with you.

 

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