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Archive for February, 2019

When I Stopped Hiding …

“And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!” Psalm 90:17 (The Message)

 

Have you ever held a position in life where you were asked to do something which didn’t seem like a big deal to your employer but to you, as a Christ follower, it was?

I’ve held many jobs in my lifetime in a variety of fields and more than once I’ve been asked to do things, while not illegal or even immoral by the world’s standards, as a Christ follower, I haven’t been comfortable complying.

I was reminded of one such instance recently. I was working for a company and was given an assignment. While legality wasn’t being called into question, I was leery enough to ask questions ahead of time before blindly accepting the task. The answers I was given seemed to line up with my beliefs, so I began.

However, it was quickly apparent that again, while the assignment didn’t contain anything illegal or immoral by society’s standards, as a Christ follower, I wasn’t comfortable. At this point, I chose to seek godly counsel and went to my husband. He agreed that the task wasn’t illegal or immoral and while it wasn’t ideal, I needed to fulfill my job description and complete what was assigned. So that is what I did.

However, as I was working, I started to find myself “hiding from God.” Now I found this response to be confusing. Why was I hiding from God when this assignment wasn’t something I enjoyed … I wasn’t getting any pleasure out of it … and I certainly didn’t choose to participate willingly. I was completing a job for my employer out of obedience, plain and simple.

And it was that truth that changed everything for me. I realized I had nothing to hide. I wasn’t deliberately sinning. I was choosing to honor my employer by doing the best job I could with the assignment I was given, even though it was less than ideal.

I also decided that instead of hiding from God, I was going to deliberately invite Him into this assignment and ask for His help. So right then, I stopped working and had a conversation with my Heavenly Father that went something like this: “Dear Abba: You knew about this assignment before I did. You know that I asked questions ahead of time and did my best to make sure I wouldn’t be put in an uncomfortable situation … and yet, here I sit, uncomfortable. I’ve sought the counsel of my godly husband and I agree with what he said. There is nothing illegal about this task and I need to fulfill it to the best of my ability. It’s a one time job and once it’s over, it’s done. I will have learned to be more discerning from this experience and I will now know what questions to ask ahead of time, more than what I attempted. In the meantime, please enter into this job with me. Guard my heart and my mind if needed and help me to finish quickly, with excellence, as though I’m working for You. Thank You ahead of time for being here with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 The whole trajectory changed for me with that prayer. I realized hiding was exactly what the enemy wanted me to do. When I was hiding from God, I felt guilty and as though I was sinning. When I shed light on the situation, my Heavenly Father came alongside me and helped me finish quickly, without guilt, and with excellence. I was able to deliver the task completed in a faster time than I thought possible and I learned many lessons from that experience.

The best lesson, by far, though, was this: I can’t hide from God. He sees everything I do. When I choose to invite Him into each situation – good, bad, or uncomfortable – He can then take each activity and use it for His good.

If you’re wondering how He used this particular assignment for good, I’m happy to share.

 

  • I learned that I don’t have to hide from God, especially when I’m not deliberately choosing a sinful lifestyle. When I invite Him into every situation I’m faced with, He then shows His power and protects me from potential harm.
  • I hope that my willingness to work with excellence despite the less-than-ideal circumstances was a testimony I can use later to share God’s love with those around me, who may not know Him on a personal level, and find themselves in situations that aren’t illegal or immoral by today’s standards but give off red warnings for their personal comfort level.

 

I may never know the full extent of how God used that example, but I know, for me, I have more confidence to go to my Father in all situations, because He cares about all the details of my life. He can (and will) use all instances in my life for His glory if I give Him the chance. Good things happen when I stop hiding.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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Surrender – Part II

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (The Message)

 

There is one trait about me (okay, maybe more but today we’re talking about one in particular) that I truly don’t like about myself. I’m working on changing it and I’m trying not to pass it on to my children. It’s the fact I can be so stubborn. And stubborn about the silliest things.

Last time we were together I shared how I was given the choice last fall to fully surrender my dreams and plans in exchange for God’s, not knowing what they would look like, but telling Him I trusted Him enough to let go and watch how He wanted to work.

At first nothing changed in my situation or circumstances. However, once I chose to embrace surrender completely, my attitude was the first to get an overhaul. I was happier in my situation because I knew God was working, even if I couldn’t see any results. Eventually, ever so slowly, my situation started to change too. All the while, instead of repeating my mistake in 2013 of taking one direction from God and planning my entire itinerary from it, I chose to continue to complete the assignments He had previously given to me and just wait patiently for what He had planned next. And while at the time of this writing God is working and moving in bigger ways than He has for the past five years, and that is very exciting in itself, there is another benefit I’m enjoying while I’m waiting for God’s plan to completely unfold.

When I surrendered my dreams to God in the fall, little did I know the ripple effect it would have on my entire life. I have more joy and the peace that comes from Jesus Himself because when I surrendered all areas of my life to God, it meant all areas.

I have more energy because I started an exercise program with a friend where we fill up spiritually while we work up a sweat most days of the week. I’m slowly regaining a healthy body that will be ready to step into the ministry God calls me into. I’ve made the choice to fully submit to my husband’s authority as head of our household. While I’ve always said he was in charge, my actions now line up with my words. It’s his rightful place and I fully trust him to lead our family well.

Another benefit that has come from fully surrendering to God is this: While I still write nonfiction and love it (more than I thought I ever would), God has given me back the chance to write fiction. I am currently working on a six-book series which I hope to begin publishing this year.

The difference between my reaction this year versus in 2013? I’m deliberately choosing not to make any plans. I’m asking God what assignments He is giving me for both fiction and nonfiction projects and then working on them one at a time, not planning ahead to fill in my schedule in my terms. Whether He chooses to traditionally publish my books or I continue to self publish, whether He allows me to work less for others and more as a writer, the hours He gives me to serve at church and volunteer at school (or other areas in our lives), that is for Him to decide. I’m along for the ride – watching and waiting for His details to unfold and trusting that they will be better than anything I could ever hope or imagine.

That, my friends, is the best benefit of fully surrendering to the God of the Universe who loves us more than we can comprehend.

P.S. God also allows time for me to bake fresh chocolate chip cookies some days to greet our kids when they get home from school, and while our house isn’t immaculate (it’s better defined as lived in), fully surrendering to God has also meant slowly getting our house in order too. There has been no area of my life God has left untouched and my family gets to reap the benefits of my surrendered life as much as I do.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

 

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About the Book

Book Title: Fatal Homecoming

Author: Stacey Weeks

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release date: February 5, 2019

It was murder. She was sure. And that assurance could cost her life.

Undercover RCMP officer Rick Chandler poses as a detective in the small town of Chenaniah River. He is investigating the possibility of a corrupt police force when Jessie returns to bury her brother, and she refuses to believe evidence that point to her deceased brother’s involvement in drug trafficking. Soon, the same person that murdered her brother targets her. Can Rick help Jessie dodge bullets, escape fires, and exonerate her brother before the attacks escalate?

Jessie Berns has returned to her hometown to find answers about her brother’s suspicious death. With the help of an old friend, Detective Rick Chandler, they pursue a truth that someone is willing to do anything to keep hidden—even kill again. They uncover decades-old secrets that expose hidden sins and threaten the lifestyles of high-powered people in their small town.
As they close in on the devious mastermind manipulating the community, it becomes frighteningly clear to Rick that Jessie is not the one calling the shots in her amateur investigation.

She is the killer’s new target.

 

About the Author

Stacey Weeks is the multi-award-winning author of Glorious Surrender (2016), inspirational romances The Builder’s Reluctant Bride (2016), Mistletoe Melody (2018), and inspirational romantic suspense novels In Too Deep (2017), and Fatal Homecoming (2019). Stacey lives in Ontario where she speaks at women’s conferences, teaches writing and bible study workshops, and writes about the things of the Lord. www.staceyweeks.com

 

Guest Post from Stacey Weeks

A Pile of Stones

Often, the things I am studying in the bible make their way into my novels. At the time of writing Fatal Homecoming, I was reading the book of Joshua.

In Joshua chapter four, Joshua describes the pile of stones the Israelites built as a memorial to God. Those stones were evidence of the Lord’s provision for them. The monument was a reminder to future generations that God had delivered his people.

In Fatal Homecoming, Jessie needs to remember God’s provision. She wears a unique pendant passed down through the women of her family. Her necklace is comprised of river stones that represent the rocks from Joshua. They are to remind that God always meets His children in their moment of need.

Shortly after writing this necklace into Fatal Homecoming crisis struck a good friend of mine. As our church gathered around a suffering family to love and support them in their time of need, I decided to make a real pendant of stones to give to my friend to remind her and to remind me that God meets every need in His time and in His way.

The pendant of stones can be strung on a necklace or keychain. It is more than words on paper and more than a pile of rocks strung on a string. It was a reference point. They mark where God gave me a story to share so that others may know and believe.

If you are the lucky winner of this pendant of stones, I pray that every time you look at it, touch it, and feel the weight of it around your neck that you will remember to believe that your God is good. Always.

 

Stacey has also gifted all the blog readers with a short story to download. Enjoy!

Click here to download.

My Review of Fatal Homecoming:

Fatal Homecoming definitely was full of suspense and heart-pounding action from the first page through to the last. I loved how Jessie and Rick had a childhood of memories as a launching point, a history of good memories from which to begin their adult relationship. The characters were believable, the plot was terrific, and the conclusion made my reader heart happy being there were a few twists and turns in there I didn’t suspect. I suspected a few different antagonists and was pleasantly surprised to find those suspects innocent, unprepared for the ones who truly were guilty. The author did a great job of keeping me guessing throughout the book – is it ____? What about _____? The only drawback for me, and this is a personal preference, was I wish there was slightly less drama involving Jessie. The amount of attacks made against one person seemed slightly exaggerated, she truly didn’t get a break, but aside from wanting the victim to have a day or so to rest in between violent attacks, it was a wonderful book and I will definitely read more of this author. This was a new author for me and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and Celebrate Lit and was under no obligation to post a review. All opinions expressed are exclusively mine.

 

Thanks for stopping and connecting here at Spoken from the Heart: If you want to subscribe to my email to receive the latest updated information or to just be encouraged, sign up here: www.cheriswalwell.com

As my way of saying thanks, you will receive a free eBook – Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

Just sign up at: www.cheriswalwell.com

Don’t forget to check out the other blog spots listed below for your convenience.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, February 14

Carpe Diem, February 14

Real World Bible Study, February 15

Blogging With Carol, February 15

Multifarious, February 16

Mary Hake, February 16

Bibliophile Reviews, February 17

Bukwurmzzz, February 17

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 18

Maureen’s Musings, February 18

Bibliophile Reviews, February 18

All-of-a-kind Mom, February 19

Texas Book-aholic, February 19

Through the Fire Blogs, February 20

Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 20

Quiet Quilter, February 21

Inklings and Notions, February 21

Daysong Reflections, February 22

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 22

As He Leads is Joy, February 23

Simple Harvest Reads, February 23 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Spoken from the Heart, February 24

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, February 24

EmpowerMoms, February 25

Janices book reviews , February 25

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 26

Bigreadersite , February 26

A Baker’s Perspective, February 27

Giveaway

 

To celebrate her tour, Stacey is giving away a grand prize of a beautiful handmade necklace (May vary from picture)!!

Be sure to enter the giveaway for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/da8a/fatal-homecoming-celebration-tour-giveaway

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Surrender – Part I

“The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.”

Galatians 2:20 (The Message)

 

Last fall I chose to fully surrender to God. Seems a little strange to hear someone who loves God and has been a Christ follower for over 40 years to say, don’t you think?

“Isn’t being a Christ follower already someone who has surrendered to God? Isn’t that what that means?” or maybe you’re thinking, “Took you long enough.”

But let me explain. Back somewhere around 2013, it was long enough ago that I don’t remember the exact year, but the moment itself was significant, I told God I wanted our family to do something significant for Him. I wanted us to live with purpose for Him. I didn’t care what it was … I just wanted Him to use us in whatever way He chose.

And when He answered … well, then I started to plan. Our conversation went a little something like this. “Oh, so You want me to finish my book? Well, in that case, I’ll transition in two years from medical transcriptionist to full-time traditionally published author of fiction books, write in my spare time, have tons of time to serve at church, volunteer in our kids classrooms, have warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for my kids on a weekly basis when they get home from school, keep an immaculate house …”

I’m not sure if God actually sits up in heaven and laughs at His children, but my attitude in 2013 definitely deserved some kind of response.

Fast forward to the fall of 2018 and a wonderful women’s conference at our church. I was given the opportunity, after some amazing discussions, to fully surrender my dreams and exchange them for His. And it was a choice. After the conference but throughout the fall, God continued to give me sermons, blog posts, conversations with friends, Bible verses, etc. about the choice I was given – remain faithful and endure, giving up my dreams in order to make room for God to work His plans in my life.

I took the first step at the conference. I went to the front of the room and laid down my dreams. Tears streaming down my face, I told God I would work in whatever capacity He chose because I trusted Him with my life, my family, and my ministry. I told Him that I knew that I knew that I knew His dreams and plans for me (while not knowing any specifics) were far better than anything I could plan or orchestrate for myself. And then I sat back and waited.

Well, in all honesty, I kept waking up every day putting one foot in front of the other, working the same jobs, continuing to work on the assignments He had previously given me, but because of my choice, I noticed my attitude started to change. My situation and my circumstance hadn’t changed … nothing changed except my attitude. And that was everything. Then a month or so later, I noticed something else.

Because I got out of the way, because I fully surrendered and stopped trying to paint a picture of what my “perfect life” would look like, God was finally able to start moving in situations and circumstances I had been praying about for years.

Come back tomorrow and I will share how by choosing to fully surrender to God, the ripple effect it had on the rest of my life.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

 

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Drop Off

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

 

I have been wanting to write this post for about five months now. It’s not anything profound or deep, but yet it touches me every day I drop our youngest off at school. Our children attend different school districts and as a result, our youngest needs to be taken and picked up from school each day. I’ve personally loved it because it gives me time away from the computer, a mental break from working, but also creates a chance to connect before sending him off for six plus hours and then a chance to reconnect before entering the chaos of after school/dinner hour/homework/bedtime hours.

However, not only do I enjoy the one-on-one time drop off and pick up gives me with our child, I truly enjoy watching the different dynamics of other parents as they perform the same routine our family does, each and every school day.

Each parent/child relationship is as different as each family and yet we all have similarities. Affection is shown verbally and physically to each child as they leave their parent and head into the school. Whether a fist bump, a hug and kiss, an arm around the shoulders, or a routine unique to a specific family, the parents’ love for their children and the love of the child back toward their parent is evident.

Verbally it’s the same. Each family has their own way they express their love for each other before separating for six plus hours. For some families it’s more the tone of voice than the actual words spoken and still others it’s something completely unique and special to that child and parent dynamic.

Another thing I noticed was it doesn’t matter the age of the child (this particular school has kindergarten through fourth grade) and the parents’ voices and gestures are as gentle and loving toward their older children as they are for their younger ones. While the style used to express that love may vary depending upon age and comfort level, it’s still present and I love seeing it.

I’ve been actively observing drop off for months now and it’s easy to see which kids are gearing up to face a battle that particular day (maybe they don’t feel well, maybe someone is sick at home and they are worried about them, maybe they have a test or project or maybe they just stayed up late and are especially tired) and which kids are looking forward to something special happening (maybe it’s their birthday and they get to bring treats, maybe they have a new outfit they’re wearing and they feel especially confident or maybe they got a new puppy and can’t wait to tell their friends). No matter what is going on in the child’s life, they are sent off to school with verbal and physical affirmation that they are special, loved, and valued.

Like I said, this post wasn’t about any profound truth except maybe to remind us all that how we choose to say goodbye and also how we choose to say hello to those we love can make a difference in how positively or negatively they face the world and even see the world and those around them.

While this mainly pertains to interactions with your loved ones, I think it can be an example across the board. While I’m not going to go up to a stranger and offer a hug or invite them to learn our elaborate family handshake, a smile and a friendly greeting might go a long way in turning a negative day around.

I think we can all learn a lot from the routines established at drop off. I know I sure have this year.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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“He’s your praise! He’s your God! He did all these tremendous, these staggering things
that you saw with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy 10:21 (The Message)

 

  • The beauty of the snow and ice draping the bare branches in the wintertime, hanging over the country roads with the soft sunlight filtering through.
  • The smell and taste of one’s favorite flavor of coffee; better yet, sharing it with someone you love.
  • The chance to move my body and work up a sweat while filling my soul with friendship and encouragement before officially starting my work day (even though it unofficially started hours earlier).
  • Opening the door for a stranger for no other reason than “just because.”
  • Choosing not to retaliate with words or gestures when someone cuts you off in traffic (or during the pickup line).
  • The chance to cuddle, curled up with blankets, while watching a favorite movie after working hard all week, enjoying the laughter and memories being made with your family.
  • Listening to your kids interact with each other, knowing this time next year the family dynamics will be drastically different – still good, but different.
  • Having a husband who volunteers to go grocery shopping with you (even though it’s one of his least favorite activities) and then surprising you by taking you to dinner afterwards for a mini date before heading home and working several more hours.
  • Listening to your child share about his day, something he discovered outside, or a new truth he learned at church.
  • Sitting at church, surrounded by your family, worshipping together week after week.

I am reminded often that the little things I tend to take for granted are really the big things. And yet, why do I still rush around, impatient, trying to fit everything in on my “to do” list while ignoring more times than I should the things that are most important?

May I remember to embrace the little things … which are really the big things … and when I’m on my deathbed, are the things that will matter the most.

What “little” things in your life are really your “big” things? I would love for you to share them with me privately or with everyone below.

May we all be on the lookout for at least one “little thing” today and embrace it as the big thing it truly is.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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“Yes, Please!”

“Every ‘no’ to the flesh is a ‘yes’ to God’s promise.” Pastor Juan Martinez

 

Those of you who have been around this blog for a while know about my struggle with emotional eating … and you also have heard me say that God has been working on healing the inward part of me so that my outward part would be a reflection of that healing.

I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Juan Martinez last fall and while we weren’t talking about emotional eating (or food at all), when he said the above phrase, my unhealthy relationship with food is what immediately came to mind. Because, when it comes to obeying God, while I’m not perfect, this is the one area in life where I have continued to struggle and continued to resist completely surrendering over to Him.

But God isn’t done with me. He knows how much I want to obey and how much my flesh keeps getting in the way, so God used those words to remind me of what I already knew … it’s my choice. Every day I wake up and I have a choice. I can choose to say “no” to my flesh (choose self-control), which is ultimately saying “yes” to God’s blessings, or I could give into my flesh (ignore self-control) and ultimately tell God “No thank You, I don’t want to be blessed by You today.”

A few weeks later, while having improved some in this area, but not fully surrendered my will, God used a Bible verse to further cement this truth for me, again in the area of my unhealthy relationship with food. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV): “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

This is significant for three reasons. The first is that the context in which I read this verse had nothing to do with food issues. But God used a fiction book which I was reading for enjoyment to add another layer of truth in my soul and remind me once again … I have a choice. Secondly, I love God’s blessings. I want God’s blessings. I try to live my life in a way not to block God’s blessings. Yet, twice in less than a month God is telling me the choice is mine. I can choose whether to have His blessings blocked (choosing “yes” to the flesh and choosing death and curses) or I can choose to have access to His blessings but saying “no” to flesh and “yes” to life and blessings. Third, I love my children fiercely and I take being their mom seriously. When God lays out to me that my choices (and since He was speaking to my soul about food in this instance) in regard to what I put into my mouth will bring about life and blessings or death and curses and those choices affect my children, it changed everything for me. I want to make choices “so that you (me) and your (my) children will live.”

Every day I have been waking up asking myself, “Am I choosing life and blessings today? or am I choosing death and curses? Do I want me and my children to live or do I want to make their life harder by passing on my food issues to them and their children and … ?

I love that God is so persistent. When He knows that we honestly want to obey but are struggling in certain areas, He will provide the tools we need to help us succeed. However, bottom line, it’s still my choice. And my choice? Yes, Please! to life and blessings!

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

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