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Archive for January, 2020

If your daily diet consisted of two pots of coffee, donuts for breakfast, Cheetos and M&Ms for lunch with a 2-liter of pop, and fried chicken, green beans, ice cream, and water for dessert, how do you think you would feel over time? Sluggish? Lazy? Maybe you would even start packing on the pounds and develop irreversible health problems. I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t feel like running a marathon, or maybe even getting off the couch for a leisurely stroll.

 

It’s not healthy or sustainable to try and survive on a diet that consists 90% of junk food and 10% healthy food (here’s to green beans and a glass of water!).

 

In the same way, it’s not spiritually healthy to consist on a diet of 90% messages that point you to a worldly view and 10% messages from God’s Word. Going to church every Sunday is a great way to start one’s week, but if it’s the only time in seven days you are exposed to God’s words, soon your spiritual life will be lacking in essential vitamins and minerals needed to live an abundant life.

 

Philippians 4:8 states we are to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. I try to live my life according to that standard: making sure that 90% of what goes into my mind is Christ-centered, wholesome, and clean to counteract the 10% worldly messages that I allow to penetrate my mind.

Living this type of lifestyle doesn’t make me a weirdo or out of touch with society. But, as a Christ follower, I want to focus on things that please my Father. And I have a husband and three children who see the way I live my life – out in the community as well as behind closed doors. Being authentic no matter who I’m with is important to me.

 

This question is asked periodically in our house: “How balanced is your diet lately?” and it has nothing to do with the food they are eating. Instead of lecturing or deciding for our kids what they expose themselves to, it helps them “check” themselves and bring their lives back into balance when they have swerved too far in the wrong direction.

 

It’s not just for them though. I need to assess the balance in my life regularly as well.

 

Let me bring you into the circle of our family and ask: “How balanced is your diet lately?”

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

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I was listening to the radio a few months back and heard the above saying. There is a lot of truth packed in between the quotation marks. It got me thinking …

 

How often when we’re dating do we spend tons of time wondering, considering, and analyzing the person we’re interested in?

 

While it’s important to go into any relationship with eyes wide open and not sugarcoating another’s actions, I think it’s important to work on your own values/morals before you enter into the world of dating so that you’re attracting the type of people you want to spend the rest of your life with.

 

For those of us who are married, we’re not off the hook either. While I’ll never again be who I was almost 23 years ago when my husband first met me, am I still making an effort to “be the person the person I want to be with wants to be with?”

Is growing in Christ still my top priority? Do I regularly take time to fill up with God before pouring out to my family? Am I compassionate? Slow to anger and quick to forgive? Do I encourage and build up or do I focus more on what needs to be done and forget who I’m doing it for? Do I take care of myself physically so I’m ready to have fun and share activities together with the person I pledged to love “’til death do us part?” Do I bring life and peace into our home or do I deplete it the moment I walk through the door?

 

I think there is a lot of truth packed into that one sentence: “be the person the person you want to be with wants to be with.”

 

What does the sentence above speak to you?

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

 

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I was having a conversation with someone about God the other day. I was encouraging this person about how much God desires a relationship with us – He doesn’t care where we start, He only wants us to want to grow closer to Him.

 

I was making the statement, “you don’t have to start on top of the mountain.” Start where you are, because God will meet you there and help you climb.

 

For the past six years, I’ve been steadily climbing up the mountain. I started way down at the bottom and had been steadily climbing month after month, year after year.

However, I noticed this past year, I felt as though I was starting to lose ground… and didn’t understand why. I was still reading my Bible every day, I was still praying often, I was still in love with God … so why did it feel more difficult to keep climbing?

 

I realized it was because I had allowed some sand to get in my boots and it was weighing me down. Grumbling … complaining … a sarcastic comment here … a critical remark there … they all lead to the slippery slope of disconnection from God.

 

It was then I made the connection. I need to rappel back down the mountain some (get back to the basics) and begin doing the same things I did as I was beginning to climb in order to gain that ground back.

 

I needed to ask forgiveness, I needed to remember all the blessings God has given me in life and speak His promises over my life to quench the fire of criticism and sarcasm … and it was okay to give myself grace. God is all about grace. It’s okay to sprinkle some into my life as well.

 

God doesn’t care where you start on the mountain. He doesn’t even mind helping you relearn some things you have forgotten. God simply wants our hearts – and when He has those, watch what He can do!

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

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Life is a marathon …

I have got to learn this life is a marathon, not a sprint. Every year I run the risk of burnout. Every year I pile too many things on my plate and then wonder why I’m crabby, irritable, lack energy, and “work all the time.”

Last March, my blood pressure spiked to 183/112, dangerously high due to work stress. I wasn’t taking care of myself and I don’t know about you, but when my readings were at that level, worrying about them caused them to go higher or stay high.

 

God helped me put some action steps in place in order to get it lowered naturally and stay down. However, as spring rolled into summer and different stresses vied for my attention, I slowly went back to baseline with more stress, more work, and less self care.

 

This year, I want to make my health a priority. While I could easily be replaced in a heartbeat at work, I am irreplaceable to my family.

 

Starting last fall, I started getting serious again about my health. Staying off the computer on the weekends so I could catch up on things around the house, spend time with my family, and give my brain a break.

 

I’ve limited my late nights (and working at night) to twice a week. I have started to exercise regularly again; I have healthy foods (some quick and easy like apples, string cheese, walnuts, etc.) that are pre-planned for breakfast and lunches, and more importantly than work and eating/exercise changes are the emotional changes.

 

In order to function at my best, I need a break from working mode to allow myself to relax. Maybe that means going to bed early some nights; maybe it means staying up 30 minutes later to engross myself in great Christian fiction. Maybe that means spending the evening on a date with my husband or an impromptu after-school date with one of our children.

 

Life is a marathon, not a sprint and while I’ve said those words for years, it’s about time I put into practice ways to keep myself healthy for the long haul.

 

What about you – what do you do to take care of yourself? You’re priceless to your family and friends.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

 

 

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Rain …

I love the sound of rain. Especially on a hot summer day, knowing it’s going to bring relief to the heat. Knowing the flowers and grass are getting not only a drink of water but the minerals that only come from God’s water, not our garden hose.

I used to hate rain. I especially hated storms because they brought with them the threat of storms – thunderstorms, lightning, or tornadoes.

However, in my 47 years of life, I’ve ridden out quite a few storms: emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual. While storms can be scary (whether they pop up out of nowhere or have been brewing for a while before the deluge finally hits), they can bring a chance for growth.

Spiritual storms bring about a deeper connection when we allow them to draw us closer to our Heavenly Father instead of further away.

Physical storms can be a wakeup call for ways to change our lifestyle and eating habits to live a healthier (and less painful) life.

Financial storms can bring us back to the basics and remind us about what’s really important in this world.

Emotional storms can help us remember our values, morals, and what we need to do to live an authentic life inside our house and out in the community.

I’m not yet at the point where I can say I love going through storms, but I do love the growth that occurs as a result of the crazy weather patterns … and I’m most grateful God never said I had to travel them without Him.

What’s one blessing you remember coming out of a storm you traveled in life?

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

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Free …

I don’t know about you, but it’s heavy to carry around the weight of self regret; especially the regret of not measuring up to the person I think I should be. I see myself one particular way in my mind, as someone who should exhibit all the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) all the time.

They say that is when a person’s true character shines through – in stressful situations and painful life events. Therefore, I feel like I have to measure up to perfection all the time in order to allow Christ to shine through me, showing His example to others. My biggest fear is that people will judge God based on my imperfections.

However, I think I have been thinking about this all wrong. I shine the most for Christ when I sit back, relax, and ask Him for a clean slate every day. When I put my priorities in their correct order, asking God what His plan is for me today and not worrying about my own agenda. Those are the days that more gets done, I show more “fruit” from above, and I go to bed at night with a clear conscious, not having completed my own checklist, but listening and watching and be willing to accomplish what God had in store for me instead.

I find, too, that the more I think in terms of what God wants to do in my life today, the happier I am. Not because I now have an excuse for slacking off; no, instead, I tend to be more vigilant, not wanting to disappoint the God of the universe by failing to complete a task He set before me.

But, it is His agenda and He is a much nicer Judge of me than I ever will be of myself. He doesn’t hold a grudge if I fail to accomplish all He asks. He cares more about my heart and my desire to obey than whether or not I completed each task perfectly. If only I was that forgiving of myself.

Do you have difficulty in that area too, or are you more willing to show yourself grace on a regular basis?

© Cheri Swalwell 2020

 

 

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About the Book

Book: Focused Backstory

Author:  Carol Alwood

Genre: Writing nonfiction

Release Date: June 18, 2019

Have you ever wondered…
How to use backstory correctly?
What are the ways other writers successfully incorporate backstory into their work?
Do tools exist to help writers better plan stories so the backstory isn’t such a problem?

In Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, you’ll find answers to these questions and more. You’ll learn how to avoid the dreaded info-dump and instead, harness curiosity so readers keep turning pages. This resource breaks down focused backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story no matter what genre or length. Worksheets, tables, questionnaires, and templates will help you plan an engaging story with deep characters. Examples from popular stories will help you understand this method.

 

About the Author

Carol Alwood has an unending passion for fiction, and she can’t think of a better way to spend her life than writing books for young adults and teaching about techniques she has learned along the way. With a Master of Education, experience as a content editor, and over a decade of establishing and working with critique groups, she is an excellent resource. An award-winning author, Carol finds joy in helping writers locate the right tools to plan, draft and revise their novels so they can achieve excellence in storytelling.

 

My Review of Focused Backstory:

Such a helpful and informative book. This is one that will be staying on my shelves … well, actually, staying in my hands and off my shelves because I will keep referencing it often. For someone starting out in fiction and wanting to do it right from the beginning, this is a great book to help me learn to craft stories people will want to buy and keep coming back for sequels, etc. This is a book that I will read often and have already begun encouraging my friends to buy and read too.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit but was not under any obligation to write a review. All opinions are strictly mine.

 

More from Carol:

Focused Backstory resulted from a personal quest to please industry critics who suggested I keep character history out of the first pages of my novels. My initial questions to this advice were: What? Why? I searched for resources to figure out how to write a more powerful beginning without relying on the past but found little help. On a mission to find answers, I studied popular books, television and movies to abstract what made stories work and — boom! I found it! We can break down backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story without compromising artistry. This book provides definitions, examples, worksheets, templates, and comics to help writers study the art of using powerful character histories to keep readers turning pages. I’m so excited to offer this resource and hope it will empower your writing as it has 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, December 28

Holly Jo Morris, December 28

janicesbookreviews, December 29

CarpeDiem, December 29

Jacquelyn Lynn, December 29

For the Love of Literature, December 30

Mary Hake, December 30

Blogging With Carol, December 31

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 31

Genesis 5020, January 1

April Hayman, Author, January 1

Pause for Tales, January 1

Through the Fire Blogs, January 2

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, January 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 3

Emily Yager, January 3

Remembrancy, January 4

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, January 4

A Reader’s Brain, January 5

Spoken from the Heart, January 5

Sara Jane Jacobs, January 5

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 6

Godly Book Reviews, January 6

Blossoms and Blessings, January 7

With a Joyful Noise, January 7

Inklings and notions, January 8

Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, January 8

A Diva’s Heart, January 8

Artistic Nobody, January 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 9

Hebrews 12 Endurance, January 9

Texas Book-aholic, January 10

Stories By Gina, January 10

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/f384/focused-backstory-celebration-tour-giveaway

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