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Archive for September, 2018

Know Your Limits

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together we talked about genuine relationships and truly knowing those around you. Today I want to focus on another equally important truth – staying close enough to God to know your own limits.

This past spring was a busy season for our family. We were dealing with a few serious health crises of several family members, emotional burdens of other family members and then added busyness of “end-of-the-school-year activities.” Additionally, this year our oldest graduated from high school which brought about the added joy of planning his party in the midst of the normal busy.

One particular day last week I was attempting to juggle my own doctor’s appointment while fielding updates from another family member’s serious illness, all while gathering prices at various stores for the party we were planning and a host of other obligations simultaneously. I looked up at one minute when a urinal caught my eye – cluing me in to the fact I had walked into the men’s bathroom instead of the ladies room! Two stores later, I “woke up” from my thoughts with enough time to stop myself from nearly shoplifting three containers of juice because my mind simply wasn’t in the present but on all the other things vying for attention. It was then I realized I’d hit my limit. I honestly at that point couldn’t put one more thing in my brain and realized I shouldn’t be making any major decisions until I allowed myself time to rest and recover, if only for a few hours.

I went home and first filled up with God. I took time to give Him each of my concerns, one by one, until He was holding them and had given me back His peace instead. Then I chose activities that didn’t further deplete my exhausted body and instead gave myself permission to take a few hours for me. The next morning, after having a decent night sleep for the first time in days, I was able to again tackle what needed to be accomplished. I was able to care for others who needed more assistance than myself and continue planning for a party that would be here and done before I knew it.

It’s important to know our limits. It’s also important, when we can, to fill up with God before we allow ourselves to get completely depleted. Sometimes, though, life hits hard and fast and we can’t fill up as fast as we have to pour out. That is when relying on God’s strength is the most important decision we can make.

Praying that each of you take the time today to fill up with God before life tries to deplete the reserves you have stored.

#Knowyourlimits                  #fillupwithGod                      #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Know Those Around You

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13 (NIV)

 

I’ve been talking for the past few weeks about the life group I’m co-teaching at my church, Caring for the Caregiver. Today I want to talk about the importance of truly knowing the person of whom you are blessed to serve. In the realm of caregiving, it’s important to study the preferences of the one you are caring for. Is he/she introverted or extroverted? Does he/she prefer to spend time alone or crave the company of others? Does he/she have a high pain tolerance or lower pain threshold? What are their favorite foods, sleeping positions, entertainment preferences? All of these answers help a caregiver better serve the needs of the one being helped.

The same principles apply to everyday life. When we are dealing with loved ones, friends or strangers on the street, it’s a great idea to pay attention. This type of observation will help build in us characteristic traits as people who truly care, but only when done with a genuine spirit.

It’s not that difficult to meet the needs of others – it just takes the power of observation, listening and asking questions. For me, I like to start each day asking God to use me in whatever way He wants. I ask Him to help me not miss opportunities where He wants to use me as a blessing to others and to slow down enough not to miss the important ways I can minister to others.

When approaching life this way, God will provide opportunities for us to bless others. He will help our schedules slow down enough to take the time to get to know others’ likes/dislikes so that our interactions with them are authentic. He will help us build true relationships with those around us because, essentially, God is all about relationships. It’s through mindful interactions that conversations flow in order to shine light on the most important relationship everyone can have – the one with our Heavenly Father. Ultimately, we’re not here on earth to build up treasures for ourselves. We’re here on earth to share about God’s plan with those who don’t know and to encourage other brothers and sisters in Christ to keep fighting the good fight who feel like giving up. That is best done through conversations between friends and part of being in friendships involves taking a genuine interest in those God has put inside our circle.

#Knowthosearoundyou                  #authenticrelationships      #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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I’m Not in Control

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” Deuteronomy 28:1 (NIV)

 

We’ve been talking for the past few weeks about the life group I’m co-teaching at my church, Caring for the Caregiver. There are so many lessons one can learn from taking care of someone who is ill or unable to take care of themselves. And most of these lessons can be applied in all situations, not just the caregiving field.

One lesson that I want to talk about today is the truth: “I’m not in control.” That statement is so true when providing care for another. While I may be able to control when I offer food, rest, medication and/or bathroom privileges, I cannot force someone to eat, drink, sleep, use the bathroom or take one’s medication. While I know it’s important to do those things on a regular basis to stay healthy (or get healthy), I still am not in control of whether or not the other person actually agrees and follows through.

The same can be said in any situation in life. Whether dealing with friends, family or just strangers on the street. God reminded me of that just yesterday. I was pulling into a gas station and trying to get out of the way because I was blocking the entrance as well as others from leaving the gas pumps. An irate customer who had been waiting longer than me thought I was “cutting in line” and proceeded to let me have it through the open windows. I tried to explain I wasn’t taking her pump, just needed to get past her in order to keep the flow moving. In this particular instance, I tried to calmly move out of the way in order to keep from hindering the flow of cars, but I couldn’t control the other driver’s reaction when she thought I was “cutting in line.”

So, you may ask, what can we do when the control is out of our hands? Well, the answer is Biblical. As with the situation above, I chose to remain calm. I chose integrity. Instead of trading angry words with her or otherwise misrepresent Christ, I chose to treat the woman with respect and let her know through my actions she misinterpreted my intent.

The most important thing we can do, though, is pray always – before, during and after every situation we may find ourselves. Ultimately, when we invite Jesus into every situation through prayer before we make any decisions, He takes control. Not only am I not in charge of anyone else’s choices, but when I put God in charge, I don’t have to try and be in control at all. And that choice, my friends, brings me ultimate peace.

#I’mnotincontrol                               #Prayfirst                   #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Sitting in Silence

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

 

We’ve been talking about truths God has taught me from the life group I had a chance to co-lead this spring. Today I want to share about how to sit in silence with our Father.

Most people now-a-days are forced to learn the art of multitasking. We feel if we don’t, we won’t get everything done that needs to be done in a timely manner. However, what if I challenged us today to do something that would seem to sabotage our productivity? I’ve learned that success God’s way usually seems contradictory to the world’s best advice.

What if I challenged us, when life gets overwhelming, before starting to work harder, we sit in silence with God first? What if I take that challenge even further? What if I suggested that even before life gets crazy, we learn how to regularly sit silently with our Father?

What, you may be asking, does that even look like? Sitting in silence means spending time with God. Getting quiet, initiating conversation and then, as you would with friends or family, sitting and waiting for a response. Not checking email while waiting for God’s answer, not surfing Facebook, not writing out your “to do” list – but sitting quietly, maybe with your favorite cup of coffee or tea, and listening, really listening for God to speak.

Sometimes He will answer with a Bible verse that speaks to your situation, sometimes He will answer with a feeling of peace, joy, or hope. Sometimes He won’t answer right away and wants us to “press in harder” which basically just means having more frequent and deeper conversations with Him until He gives an answer.

I find, for myself, when I choose to sit quietly with my Father on a regular basis, sometimes more often when life gets hard, the “hard” doesn’t seem as hard. God has miraculously answered at times by dealing with the trial for me and sometimes removing it or lessening it – always leading me through it. He replaces my panic with peace, my stress with joy and my hectic schedule with windows of opportunity.

Sitting quietly with my Father is a skill I’ve needed to learn, but it’s been so worth it. I want to encourage you to give it a try yourself. God wants to have a deep relationship with us. I guarantee if you share with God your true desire to grow a relationship with Him, He will meet you where you are and take you deeper than you think is possible.

#Sittinginsilence                  #SitquietlywithGod              #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Collecting Happiness

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

 

Last time we talked about growing a relationship with God and what that entails: shared experiences, communication and trust. Today I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about the importance of noticing blessings all around us – “collecting happiness” throughout our day.

I was reading the book, My Name is Mahtob, and she described a college course she took where the professor challenged each student to make a daily list of five ways they “collected happiness” each day. Mahtob explained how difficult it was for her to find five things that made her happy every single day. It took quite a bit of effort to start noticing the happiness to collect, but she realized once she started, it became easier and easier.

The same experience happened for me. I had been encouraged for years to start a “blessings journal” to list all the blessings I experienced throughout each day. I resisted for quite a while and then when I did start, it was hard to list many. However, I found that the more I listed blessings (big, small and everything in between), the more I noticed blessings:

 

  • A beautiful sunrise or sunset
  • Sharing a cup of coffee with a friend
  • “Today is over and I can start fresh tomorrow.”

 

It’s been over five years now and I have to say, I treasure my blessings journal. It has grown into something more – now it holds special Bible verses God gives me for certain seasons in my life, promises He has spoken over my family, prayer requests or answered prayer as well as the list of blessings I experience throughout the day.

One more “blessing” Mahtob found when she started collecting happiness and sharing within the group setting of her class was this: the more one shares with others the blessings in one’s life, the more contagious it becomes and you find yourself happier than when you started. Happy for one’s own blessings but happy for other’s blessings as well.

When we live life God’s way, sharing His blessings with others, it increases our happiness instead of depleting it. Instead of being jealous, we are filled with His love for life and others even more. That’s definitely a blessing that should be written down.

I’d love to encourage everyone to start looking around and collecting their own happiness on a daily basis.

#collecting happiness        #blessingsjournal     #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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Growing a Relationship

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)

 

I was privileged to co-lead my first life group this past spring. While the group was about Caring for the Caregiver, God impressed upon my heart two things in particular to share: how much He desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us and taking the time to look up and notice the blessings all around us – “collecting happiness” throughout our day.

Today I want to encourage everyone about how much God desires to have a personal relationship with each of us. First and foremost, He wants to be Lord of our lives. He desires for us to live with Him for eternity in Heaven and the only way to do that is to accept Jesus into our heart as our personal Savior.

I want to talk more about the next step, though, after one has received Jesus into their heart. What then? God desires a closeness with us. Think about how you develop and grow in a relationship with a friend, your spouse, your children, or co-workers. Our youth pastor, Pastor Justin, shared in a sermon recently about the three key ingredients to growth: shared experiences, communication and trust.

The same is true of growing our relationship with God. First, we have to spend time in shared experiences with Him to get to know Him and open ourselves up for Him to know us. Next, communication involves reading God’s Word, talking to God through prayer and then listening to God through prayer as well. Last, the more we share experiences with God and communicate with God through Bible reading and prayer, the more our trust in Him grows.

Then, when storms come in our lives (and they will), we have those shared experiences, open communication and trust built up already to help us through those trials so true growth can occur.

Come back next time for another truth God reminded me of through the small group experience.

#growingrelationships        #Goddesiresrelationship    #SpokenfromtheHeart

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

“…It is the price you pay for choosing to be a cop. Your brother’s life…”

Those words haunt her dreams, and her waking moments. LAPD officer, Aurora Kavvan cannot rest until she finds her brothers killer. Digging into the past always brings back unpleasant things: memories, guilt…the hit man. Now she is in a race against time to find the murderer before he finds her.

“Kill her. I don’t care how, and I don’t care where, but I want her dead now!”

Someone was trying to kill his dead partner’s sister. FBI agent, Jordan Reiley will stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves. Even if it means going against her wishes; putting himself between her and the man who murdered her brother.

Will God keep them alive long enough for them to find the truth?

 

Click here to purchase your copy of Shadows from the Past

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ashley Dawn was born and raised in rural Arkansas where she developed her love for writing while helping in her parent’s office. She graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas but is currently working as a legal assistant.

Ashley has been writing professionally for the past twelve years and has three published books. Her Shadows Series include Shadows from the Past, Shadows of Suspicion, Shadows of Pain, and Shadows of Deception. She is currently working on multiple projects including the fifth in her ‘Shadows’ series entitled “Shadows in Black and White” and also a standalone suspense titled ‘One of Their Own’. She and her family make their home in Texas.

 

You can find the author on the following social media:

www.facebook.com/authorashleydawn

www.ashleydawn-author.com

https://twitter.com/authoradawn

 

MY REVIEW:

Shadows from the Past (Book one of the Shadows Series) by Ashley Dawn was filled with action from the first page through the last. The suspense was palpable and as this is only the first in the series, we have more time to enjoy the characters we grew to love. While this book had a lot of suspense, action and even some humor, the spiritual struggles were real as well. They showed how Aurora worked through issues she has struggled with from a spiritual level, much like it takes years at times for many Christ followers to work through issues with our Heavenly Father. The spiritual element was nicely woven throughout – at times the main focus of the action.

This was a new author to me and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience her writing. Like I said, this is the first book in a series so there is plenty of time to sit and enjoy this author’s style, tone, development of characters, plots and subplots.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via CelebrateLit. A favorable review was not required and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”

Genesis 22:15-18 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about the excitement I had driving to a leadership training at my church to learn how to lead a life group God invited me to write a year earlier. He gently reminded me of how far He has brought me in five short years since we first started attending our church and making it our home.

I attended the meeting and not two hours later, while driving home, the enemy tried to derail my enthusiasm. He tried to get me to question whether or not I really should be co-teaching.

During the meeting, I found out what day of the week the life groups normally are held on. It was only then I remembered the commitment our family has on Wednesdays in the spring – an activity that our youngest gets really excited about and trains for all year. In addition, this spring, our teenager decided to go out for a sport and we still didn’t know what day or days of the week those games would fall on.

Satan started a conversation with me while I was driving: “Maybe this isn’t the right time for you to lead a group. You are a mom and have responsibilities – maybe you need to wait until your children are grown before attempting this.”

 “God tells you to keep family a priority. You could cause irreparable emotional damage to your children if you choose church over them. Do you really want to do that?”

 “Maybe you didn’t hear God correctly. Maybe you aren’t supposed to co-lead a group. Who are you?”

 While the enemy definitely got my mind thinking and my mom guilt working, I decided to pray then and there. I told God I loved Him first, over every other area of my life. I told Him I believed He wanted me to do this and I told Him I trusted Him with the schedule. I told Him it would hurt if I had to miss my kids’ activities this spring but I also knew that didn’t make me a bad mom. They had a dad who was involved and would again, “keep the house running smoothly.”

I got home and talked to my husband first. When I told him about the possible conflict, he seemed unconcerned. This wasn’t an emergency. I talked to our youngest next, thinking surely he would object if I wasn’t able to watch him participate in his once yearly race. His response went something like this: “You’ll be missed, Mom, but Dad will be there, right? That’s okay then.” And our other child still didn’t know what night of the week the games fell, so wasn’t worried either.

The next morning God confirmed my conversation with Him the night before through a devotional. It talked about Abraham being given the test to give up his son or not (did he love Isaac more than God Himself?) and then God giving him back Isaac when Abraham proved he loved God more.

It was then I realized – I have always loved my family fiercely. They all know how much I love them and I was being invited to show God through this choice whether or not I would prove through my actions that I did indeed love Him more.

I chose God. I turned in my application two days later, willing to commit to 8 weeks no matter what day of the week the life group fell on. I gave the decision to God. Then I waited, completely surrendered to God’s will.

Three days later, I received a phone call from the life group pastor letting me know my group was approved, details about the next steps and the day/time the group would be held. It was on the only day of the week that none of my children had any spring activities. God gave me the joy of co-leading a life group AND the joy of sharing the experiences with my kids too.

Our God is so good! One of many things I’ve learned in the past five years is how much He loves us. He doesn’t give us choices to punish us. Even choices that seem so hard – giving up addictions, choosing Him over other people or activities or jobs or (fill in the blank) aren’t given to punish us. He invites us to make choices because He knows what’s best for our lives, and He knows that by putting Him first, our lives will be the best version possible. He also knows we have to willingly give our lives, all of our lives, over to Him in order for Him to be able to fully work and bring about the blessings He wants to give to each of His children.

God is amazing and He gets all the glory. He worked out my schedule so well before the life groups even started and then handpicked the perfect group of individuals to minister to for eight weeks as well.

#Caring for the Caregiver

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 (The Message)

 

In January 2017, while I was fasting at the beginning of the year, God invited me to write a Bible study about caregiving. For the first time ever, He downloaded the whole outline of a book to me in about 20 minutes. I was excited to see what God wanted to do with this project and got started right away. I stalled somewhere around the middle of the summer, but God lovingly re-invited me to finish the study and by the end of August, it was written. It took a few more months for the cover art, editing and formatting, but by mid-December, it was published.

This past spring, I found myself driving to my church for a life group leadership meeting because I was interested in leading a group using the book I had written, Caring for the Caregiver. I couldn’t contain my excitement at possibly having a chance to encourage others using this material.

While at a stoplight, God reminded me of how far I’ve come in my journey learning how to trust Him. Approximately five years ago, our Heavenly Father started stirring in my husband and my heart that it was time to leave our then current church and find a new church home. We didn’t know where to go, so started trying different churches, knowing God would make it known where He wanted us.

The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend found us at Victory Life Church. They announced they were getting ready to begin their summer life groups and invited people to check out what was being offered after the service. I was curious so I went and got a pamphlet, excited to see Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer was one of the choices. That was significant because for the past 18 months, God had been inviting and re-inviting and re re-inviting me to read that book. I had checked it out at the library with good intentions, keeping it for three months and then returning it unopened. I decided, “Okay, that would make a great Christmas present,” so I asked my mother-in-law to buy it for me, thinking if I own it, I will surely read it. In her loving kindness, she not only bought me the book but also the workbook! I still hadn’t read it. It was now May, five months later, and I told God, “Okay, I will sign up for the class.”

I talked with my husband, who wholeheartedly supported me attending, agreeing to take care of things at home on the nights I would be gone. I signed up and was ready to begin.

I believe one of the reasons God persisted with His invitation to me about the book was because He knew how much fear gripped me, and how much it influenced everything I did in life (or didn’t do). The first week of the life group I ended up not even attending. There was a thunderstorm and I wasn’t going to be caught in a storm in a building with people I didn’t know instead of at safely surrounded at home by my family. I remember being so disappointed in myself that night for giving in to the fear, the very thing I was supposed to attend the class to learn how to eliminate from my life.

God has quite the sense of humor because it was that memory He reminded me of as I sat at the stoplight, driving to the same church five years later barely able to contain my excitement at not just attending a life group, but leading one!

Five years. God has chosen to free me from so many areas of bondage in five short years. Fear? God is teaching me fear is a sin and has no place in my life, no matter the circumstances. I choose to trust Him and walk in obedience when and where He tells me to go. Fear of winter driving? Gone. Depression? Gone. Holiday depression? Gone. Anxiety/panic attacks? Haven’t had a panic attack since before Thanksgiving. I still get anxious sometimes, but God has given me the tools to work through that and peace quickly takes its place. Food addiction? Still a work in progress, but God keeps working with me on this one.

Come back next time as I share the Isaac God invited me to lay down this time.

#SFTH: Journey from Fear to Faith

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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