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Archive for July, 2018

God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7 (The Message)

 

Previously I shared last summer was the “Summer of the Momma.”  It was a bittersweet 12 weeks of enjoying one last season before our oldest graduated from high school this past spring. My “momma” heart knew this summer would look very different and I treasured all the “simple” things last summer offered.

This summer began harshly. Instead of enjoying peaceful moments and leisurely days, I was hit with a stark reality of a personality flaw of mine, and was given a choice of embracing the transition and making a significant change or fighting it and making everyone in the family miserable, including myself. I chose change.

God began preparing me this past spring by cementing into my heart the reality which states “control of anyone other than myself is an illusion.” Most people learn this lesson long before their mid-40s, but I’ve been a slow learner. And while I had head knowledge of this truth, at the beginning of this summer I was given the opportunity to turn it into heart knowledge. I decided I loved peace and joy in our home much more than I enjoyed the illusion of controlling others, not to mention deep down I don’t want to control those I love. I love that they are growing, changing and becoming their own people with thoughts, feelings, interests and abilities separate from me. I don’t try to control my husband – why do I feel it’s right to attempt to control my children?

So this summer I set expectations, both of myself and for our children and then took my hands off. I stop micromanaging. Our children are capable of telling time, following through and completing chores. I continued to encourage, offered wisdom when appropriate but took a more hands-off approach and tried to give the message (verbally and nonverbally) that I trusted them to make great decisions the way God was leading them. I also took inventory of my parenting style and realized I had been too strict in some areas and so this summer I chose to lighten their load some. I worked alongside them more instead of assigning chores and walking away to get my own work done. I know the idea of completing huge projects feels overwhelming when facing them alone; yet, they are finished much quicker the more hands involved.

As I sit and write this, our children are sleeping in. There is a list on the counter of the six items that need to be accomplished before 2 PM, when I’m choosing to take them to the library before we drop our car off to get repaired. Six items for three kids (2 items each). I have already washed all the laundry and it’s outside drying on the line. I’m using this time to write while the household is quiet, before normal chaos ensues. The result? They are happier because their days aren’t filled with getting up early and “working all day” while I’m happier because I know the things that absolutely have to be done today will be accomplished by happier children because they now feel (I hope anyway) heard, respected and in control of their own schedules, working inside their own preferences and not trying to fit a mold that doesn’t feel right.

The best part of the whole learning experience? The grace my kids gave me during the transition. They saw my heart – it wasn’t that I wanted to control them, I just struggle sometimes with transitions, even good ones and “control” is my default button. With God’s help, I’m changing that.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“ The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, ‘Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.’ He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.” I Kings 19-7-9 (The Message)

 

I recently came out of a very busy season in life. While most of what we were participating in was fun, it was still busy and at times stressful and exhausting. I had promised myself a reward of sorts. Everything we were responsible for would be completed by June 11th. I gave myself permission on that Monday, after I saw our daughter off to school and my husband off to work, I would go back to sleep, in the bedroom and not wake up until it happened naturally. That was a goal I looked forward to as I neared the homeward stretch of our “busy.”

As seems to happen at times, life didn’t get my memo. Saturday afternoon, my husband came home from his weekly date with one of our kids and informed me we had an electrical problem with one of our cars. I called around that afternoon but it turns out we couldn’t get it looked at until Monday. Okay, so my plans changed slightly.  “I’ll drop off the car early in the morning and still have time to come home, crawl into bed and sleep until I feel like waking up.”

 I asked the mechanic to please call my husband when they figured out the problem, before performing any repairs, and then told our kids not to wake me up unless there was a true emergency. I slept all of one hour – until I was woken up to be told something important that couldn’t wait. After falling back to sleep, I was woken up again one hour later, this time having to deal with car issues that continued for the rest of the day. My nap was permanently interrupted by life once again.

Throughout the week I realized I had no energy or motivation to do anything. My creativity was bottomed out, my emotions were all over the board (weepy one minute, angry the next, feeling guilty for being angry and/or crying) and I soon realized I wasn’t crazy, I was just exhausted. I decided to give myself grace. I got my work done but didn’t work ahead. I went to bed early, read some “just for fun” books without an agenda and I spent a day running errands with my kids and helped plan a fun weekend.

Most importantly, though, I took time each morning, when the house was still quiet, to spend time filling up with my Heavenly Father. I took the time (and my emotions) to Him and asked how He wanted me to deal with them. He revealed some important “growth” areas I needed to work on this summer: giving up control, worry/fear is a sin, and live in the joy of life to name a few.

I realized exhaustion (mental, physical and spiritual) can be a breeding ground for many negative emotions (fear, worry, bitterness, anger to name a few) and the enemy likes to capitalize on the times our strength has been depleted. Filling up with God first and foremost is the best resource for combatting the enemy and his lies. Then, once we are feeling more spiritually strong, we can tackle the issues we have allowed to creep in, asking for God’s help to destroy them once and for all. By Friday, after having had four days to rest, fill up with my Father, and accept His challenge to grow this summer, I entered into the weekend with my family with joy and peace.

It’s important to remember that busyness, whether celebrations or challenges, can lead to exhaustion and if left unchecked, that exhaustion can open up the opportunity for dangerous cycles of negative emotions. Filling up with God and allowing Him to speak His truth into your life destroys those cycles and ushers peace back into our lives instead so we can remember our busy seasons with joy instead of sadness.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!” Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)

 

I love how personal our God is. When I’m struggling with something and truly want God’s wisdom on the subject, if I ask, He always answers.

At the beginning of the summer, I was struggling with some heavy emotions. Dreams and desires which God had planted into my heart, and I was certain He was getting ready to fulfill … still hadn’t appeared. The thought of returning to the “desert” instead of walking into my calling was disappointing. Add to that physical and emotional exhaustion and the outcome is anything but “spiritual.”

While I didn’t sink back into the mire of depression that God delivered me from last year, I kept asking God, “why?” “Why haven’t You answered my prayers yet? Why haven’t circumstances changed? I feel as though You’re getting ready to perform a miracle in our lives … why don’t I see the victory?” I felt like a brat for “whining” and asking “why,” but those were my honest feelings and I’m secure enough in my relationship with God to know He can handle my honesty when presented with respect.

And God answered … as He so often does for me, in the form of a blog. It was written by a Christian female leader I respect. She was talking about the very struggles I was experiencing. She explained that the right questions to ask don’t begin with “why” but instead begin with “what?”

Instead of “Why haven’t You answered me yet, God?” the better question is, “What do You want to teach me through this circumstance?” “What do I still need to learn before You’re ready to promote me, Lord?”

“What” questions are much harder to ask because if chosen to be asked, usually they require some form of action on my part. “Why” questions are self-focused, usually from a person who wants the easy way out without putting forth much effort. “Why” questions are usually asked by people who are exhausted, feel hopeless or discouraged. “What” questions are asked from the position of trusting God’s plan, not trying to control the situation or anyone around me. “What” questions usually require work on my part – to learn what God needs me equipped with in order to succeed once I’m promoted.

It’s hard to make the mental shift from “why” questions to “what” questions, but it is possible. For myself, I had to remember the God I serve is trustworthy. I had to remember my life is all about Him and His plans – I’m just the servant and need to be willing to obey. While it’s not easy to shift from “why” to “what,” it brings a certain degree of freedom. God is for me, not against me and when He feels I’m ready, then I will start living in my sweet spot. Until then, I’m still asking, “What do I need to learn, God, because I’m okay with staying in school until You announce my graduation day.”

© Cheri Swalwell

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“ … The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”

Psalm 30:5 (The Message)

 

We got back from a wonderful, memory-making vacation this past spring. A week-long chance to bond, really bond with each other without the distraction of work, school, paying bills, doing laundry, and cleaning the house. It was great. It also occurred right before the season that occurs every year around this time – when our lives get extra busy with Easter, birthday celebrations, and our anniversary which then rolls into spring activities and “end-of-the-school year” activities soon to follow. This year we’re adding our oldest’s high school graduation into the mix as well. All wonderful things. Just all requiring extra attention and extra work.

The weeks that followed  seemed extremely long, probably because I’m definitely out of vacation mode and back into real life mode. While dropping off our youngest, I started complaining to a friend about how our morning was quite rough … when God checked my spirit and made me realize I was the one who had the rough morning and brought the complaining spirit into our household. It was me, not the rest of the family. I quickly apologized to her and said I didn’t want to be someone who complained. Then I had a conversation with God about my attitude on the way to run a few errands.

Once I got home, I started to change out the laundry, load three. It was while I was transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer and adding another load to the washer, Abba continued our conversation from the car earlier this morning. He reminded me of a friend who doesn’t have the privilege of doing the mundane chores of laundry for their family anymore. This friend is going through something painful which takes this friend out of the picture from enjoying the simple pleasures of cleaning, doing laundry, and going grocery shopping as a family unit.

Instantly I realized how privileged I am, blessed really, to have dirty dishes in the sink less than five feet away from the empty dishwasher. Blessed to have an extra load of laundry to do this morning due to dog throw up because it means I have a husband, children and yes, even pets to clean up after. It means the clutter on the floor (despite the majority of the house looking quite neat and tidy) reminds me of the lives God has blessed me with to share life together.

Please don’t get the impression that my family doesn’t know how to put a dish in the dishwasher or pick up after themselves. They do, better than this woman in the family does at times. They are wonderful at pitching in and we all work together on assigned chores to keep the house running smoothly. The workload doesn’t fall on me. The reason the dishwasher was empty this morning, ready for more dishes? Our youngest did his job of emptying it before heading off to school.

The point I’m trying to make is this one … I lost focus on what was important and Abba invited me to remember the blessings He gives me each and every day to share life with those I love. Some days, like today, will be messier and busier than others but which would I rather have? Quiet and alone or messy and loud and together?

I choose messy and loud and together. I was so grateful after that conversation with my Heavenly Father that I actually enjoyed finishing the laundry, folding it in piles ready for the child whose job it is to put it all away. I texted my husband and let him know how grateful I am that he’s the head of our household and how much I love sharing life with him. I also thanked him for putting up with me and my many “not-so-pleasant” moods at times.

What started out as a “rough morning” was actually just a reminder for me to regain the right focus and change my attitude. I’m so grateful I’m close enough to my Heavenly Father to hear Him when He gives me those gentle reminders to be thankful for what I have. And I truly am.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how I allowed myself to stay in an abusive relationship for 1 ½ years. When I finally had the courage (and God’s divine intervention) to leave, the question that remained was whether or not I would ever find anyone to share my life with, was I worthy enough for someone else?

When God restores, He does it in such a breathtaking way it blows me away each and every time.  God allowed me to meet and eventually marry the most amazing man, the father of our four children. Every day, every single day, I wake up and thank God for the privilege of sharing my life with him.  Every night, every single night I go to bed thanking God for the privilege of the day we had together. My outward moods fluctuate and I get crabby at times, probably more than he would like, but at my core, I’m incredibly blessed and always thankful for the man God brought into my life.

Remember the reptile, Um Potato?  He was returned to the store within the 3-week return policy window.  The wonderful manager gave me three weeks to recover before trying again and this time she spent over two hours helping us pick out a submissive and actually quite curious and fun bearded dragon.  Our littlest named her Jewel and she truly has lived up to her name.  She fits into our family perfectly and I would truly miss her if we didn’t have her.

Regarding the situation our family finds ourselves in for 2018? Change is required and I believe change has happened by the time you’re reading this … however, it hasn’t happened by the time I’m writing this.  So, if you’re interested in finding out how our lives have changed for the better, feel free to reach out to me in the comments or email me (clSwalwell99@gmail.com) and I will be happy to share with you how God turned our situation from one of growth to one of blessing.

That’s pretty bold of me to type today, knowing it hasn’t happened yet, but I also know God is bigger than anything we ourselves can do. I know He has spoken promises over our family regarding this issue.  God loves to show off and draw people to Him more than I love to share the amazing things He’s done in our lives, and I really love sharing about His amazing miracles.

If God could redeem the abusive relationship I put myself in and replace it with a happy, godly marriage, and if God can redeem a crabby owner/animal existence and replace it with a “perfect fit,” then I know God will work the same redemption and restoration in the situation we currently find ourselves living.

The common denominator?  Fully surrender to His ways, seek to obey when He speaks into the situation and then walk out what He command He gives, no matter how scary it might feel.  Leaving the abusive relationship for the final time was scary … but being blessed with a godly, handsome, amazing husband was quite the reward.  Giving up a crabby reptile wasn’t so scary, but choosing to try again caused some fear; yet, God rewarded that obedience with a Jewel of a dragon.  The situation we find ourselves in now is a little scarier because there are a lot of unknowns, but seeing how God has redeemed and restored in the past makes me excited to see how He’s going to redeem and restore this situation in the very near future.

I will be sharing what He does for our family because I know with confidence He has already begun working behind the scenes.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

 

I’ve spoken a few times in the past on this blog about an abusive relationship I allowed myself to enter into.  I stayed with the individual for one and a half years before having the courage to break it off completely … and that was only with God’s divine ntervention. When individuals are abused, they are repeatedly told they are worthless. Their abusers reinforce over and over again their worthlessness and that if they leave, they will never find someone else “willing to put up with them.” Therefore, many times individuals who are abused choose to stay in the abusive relationship because they believe that is all they are worth and life won’t get any better than that.

Approximately one and one half years ago I spoke about how our family ventured into the world of reptiles and acquired our first bearded dragon.  “Um Potato” only lasted for three weeks in our home, namely because he was a cranky/aggressive dragon and definitely not the right fit for our submissive family of five. However, in the process of deciding whether or not we could “train him” or needed to let him go, I was left to wonder if I even wanted to try again because what if the next bearded dragon has the same issues as Um Potato, or worse, what if the new one has worse issues?

 This year our family finds ourselves in another situation where change is required. God has been speaking promises to our family for quite a few years and I believe the answer is coming sooner rather than later in 2018. In fact, I’ll boldly say I believe the answer has already occurred and our family has been living our “new normal” for several months by the time you’re reading this post. At the time I’m writing this, though, our family knows change is on the horizon, God has spoken the change will be good, very good, but as of right now, I have no idea what the details look like.

In each situation above, I was given a choice.  Stay with the familiar despite the pain it’s causing or trust God that while change itself is scary, the change He is waiting to do will be amazing.

Come back next time when I reveal what happened in each of the above scenarios when I fully surrendered to God’s plans and watched Him work.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

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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)

 

I spoke last time about how God wants us to praise Him even during the messy we experience in life.  He had reminded me of this truth during my January fast (giving God the first of 2018) and I’ve been making a conscious choice to praise Him in each situation – whether or not I can see the blessing or protection I know from His Word He provides.

This past Monday was a fairly normal day.  I had a doctor appointment so arrived home around noon to start working and get some things accomplished before heading to pick up our youngest. In the mail I received a bill which stated it was now past due and there were late fees associated with it.  I knew I had paid this bill the month before and was concerned as to why they never received the check I had proof that I had written.

I called my bank first, asking if the check had been cashed.  It had not.  Then I called the company and reminded them I’ve never missed a payment and would they please cancel the late fee if I pay it right now. They were happy to waive the fee for me because of our history and then I went about paying the stop check fee instead of risking having the amount deducted twice. An inconvenience and added expense, but I praised God we had the funds to cover the fee and for the mercy of the other company to waive their late fee.

Three days later, I get another bill in the mail stating I failed to make my regular payment last month.  Now, I know I made the payments because I had the check receipts in my checkbook. That particular company wasn’t issuing a late fee but it got me wondering what had happened to all the checks I had written during that pay period.  I looked up the history in the check book and realized we had the possibility of one more bill not having been delivered in that bundle of payments.

I went into my receipts to look up the phone number to pay that bill over the phone and guess what I found? Three envelopes, stamped, checks made out and waiting to be put in the mailbox.  I unknowingly put the envelopes to be mailed in with the receipts to be filed.  However, in the mail today was the information to complete the stop check transaction, so I was able to call the bank and they issued a Cancel Stop Check Request which I was able to sign, date and return from the comfort of my own home.  I was able to call up the one remaining company with the outstanding balance and pay that bill over the phone without a late fee because it was still within my 10-day grace period.

Ten minutes of my time this morning and God refunded our stop check fee and reassured me our mail wasn’t getting stolen.  I had made a mistake, plain and simple.

I think, though, what He was really doing was reassuring me He has our family protected.  I am boldly stepping out right now asking God for some pretty big miracles and I’m believing He is going to answer.  I believe this was one very small example, with minimal messy, for my Father to remind me if He will take care of something this important (finances and credit ratings are important while living here on earth), He hasn’t forgotten about my heart’s desire and the desire I have for our family’s answered prayers. That, my friends, makes walking through the messy of this world so worthwhile, even, or maybe especially, when the messy was made from my own mistakes.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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