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“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)

 

Why would God open a door from three years ago only to close it so quickly? That was the question one would think I was wondering.

However, that’s not what was going through my head. Instead, I was even more excited and choosing to praise God even louder.

God allowed that conversation to take place at this particular time in my life for the following reasons (in my opinion):

 

  • God used the conversation to encourage me. If God can resurrect a conversation from three years ago, He can turn the closed doors I was experiencing that week into the open doors He wants me to experience.
  • It was a reminder to me to be still and watch … and wait. God had been telling me that all year. Psalm 46:10 (NIV) has been my verse this year “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted among the earth.” When God gives me the open door to step through, He will be the One who gets the glory and praise because it will be nothing I’ve done but everything He’s done.
  • God’s working to custom design His dream for me. Even though the conversation became a closed door, I was encouraged that when God does open the door, it will be specially crafted around my gifts and talents and desires God uniquely created within me and has been taking the past three years to grow in me.
  • It’s less about the blessing and more about the growth along the path. Sometimes it’s not about open versus closed doors – but instead about refining fires and doors of opposition. This was one of the topics spoken about during the women’s retreat and the main takeaway was “never ever give up.” Endure, because at the other side of the door of opposition is God’s dream for your life … a bigger blessing than one can even imagine. I’m willing to wait for God’s dream even if that means I have to endure a little bit longer and never ever give up.
  • God gave me a choice – I could have my answer “now” but possibly have to compromise my faith or I could wait for God’s best for my life … to me it was a no-brainer. I want to wait for God’s best for my life even if that means waiting awhile longer.

 

I hung up the phone that Thursday afternoon excited, knowing that if God took the time to encourage me in such a dramatic way, He has great plans for my future and the three years I’ve been waiting for an answer haven’t been wasted. He has been teaching me the lessons I need to know for when He reveals His dream for my life. And I have confidence I will be stepping into it prepared instead of floundering. I’m excited to see the details of my answered prayer when God chooses to reveal them. Until then, I’m going to continue to choose peace and joy while faithfully obeying and learning the lessons God presents.

What about you? How do you react to closed doors? Are they a disappointment or a source of encouragement?

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

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“Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.” Psalm 37:7 (The Message)

 

I chose not to complain when God closed the door to an experience I had been counting on since April 2017. I had waited patiently for 18 months for this, what I thought was a sure thing … and it turned out to be a solid “no.”

Instead of allowing myself to sink into depression or getting angry, I chose to believe God had something better, that His dream for me was far greater than what I had been hoping for, and He needed me to get out of the way before He could give it to me.

Two days later I was in the car with our daughter and my phone rang. I get telemarketing calls all the time (as I’m sure you probably do, too), and so I dismissed it as it was from out of state and I didn’t recognize the number. Two minutes later up popped a voicemail. I don’t know about you, but telemarketers rarely leave me a message. I played it back and it was someone I had reached out to three years prior! I didn’t even remember who this person was, it was so long ago.

My first thought was … is this God’s answer to my prayer for the past three years? Wow – when God answers, He does it in amazing ways. I was excited and couldn’t wait to call this person back, but needed to because I was in the process of picking up our youngest from school and thought it would be better to get somewhere quiet so I could concentrate.

I called my husband and filled him in, excitement mounting even more and talked to my daughter as well. What a testimony I was thinking … all because I surrendered to God. I was smiling because I thought, “He sure answers prayers quickly when I get out of the way!”

I made the phone call which lasted quite a while. It appeared to be going well, but soon became evident it had taken a drastic swerve toward the “closed door.” I still had a choice, but I knew as a Christ follower I could only have one answer and that was “closed.”

I was left wondering … Why would God open a door from three years ago only to close it so quickly?

Come back next time for the conclusion …

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

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“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”

Matthew 16:24-25 (The Message)

 

On September 8th, God issued me an invitation to let go of my agenda and instead embrace His dream for my life. I was left with this question: Was I willing to trust His way … or would I continue to insist on mine?

I chose to give up my dream of the vision I had for my life. I gave up my schedule and my desires and chose to trust that God’s dreams for my life would far outweigh anything I could ask or imagine. Taking that first step toward the altar that day at my church was difficult, but I was left with a peace and an excitement to “test God and see that He was good.” But it wasn’t really a testing … it was more of a “trust God and see that He IS good.”

Monday God allowed me to have a conversation with someone which gave me hope … hope that the answer I had been praying for was starting to come into reach when it had been out of my grasp for weeks, months, years.

That conversation spurred me to have a conversation with another on Tuesday, after God had reassured me ahead of time He was in this meeting. I was still nervous though. After five minutes or less, I soon realized that God was closing this door … but I wasn’t worried. I had plan B and plan C to still talk about so I had hope.

Nope. Plan B and Plan C were quickly shut down too. Tightly. Okay. I had a choice. I got off the phone and realized I could do one of two things. I could repeat my attitude in the past and feel like a failure, get depressed, allow the enemy’s lies to beat me down, and give up hope.

Or … I could CHOOSE to trust God. I could CHOOSE to praise God for this closed door. Yes, praise God I was told “no” and trust He had a better plan. So that is what I did.

But, before you think I had it altogether, the enemy sure had fun with my thoughts and emotions all night long. I had to continually choose, about every five minutes, to praise God for the closed door, remind myself His dreams are far greater than anything I could ask for or imagine and God sometimes loves to wait until things look the worst before swooping in and showing off a miracle or two. The one thing I wasn’t going to do? Give Satan the satisfaction of winning over my emotions or thoughts or stealing the peace and joy God had given me three days ago.

Come back next time to see what God did next …

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

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“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)

 

I have been praying the same prayer for weeks … months … over three years now. God has already told me He has released me from what I’ve been praying about … but He hasn’t shown me the next step.

I thought I knew the direction He wanted me to walk. I had packed my suitcase and had it waiting by the front door, ready to put it into the trunk, punch the destination into my GPS and get going as soon as God gave the green light. I thought I was “finishing strong,” I thought I was obeying, I thought I was being faithful in the little (and bigger) things, and yet still nothing was happening. No movement.

This past summer was a summer of growth. God invited me to grow in a few areas, some of which were quite painful:

  • Diet and exercise
  • Choosing joy – not complaining
  • Living intentionally
  • Choosing not to be offended

I realized that instead of focusing hard on making sure I hit the mark with each of the items above, if I choose to live a life of “love,” I would hit the mark more often than not. If I loved God first and then loved others more than myself, I would take care of my body, have more joy in my life and complain less, live intentionally and overall not be offended by others but instead have more compassion, love and grace to extend to those around me.

Approximately three weeks before the beginning of the school year, I felt nudged to seek God in prayer and find out what He wanted my schedule to look like for the remainder of 2018 and the next year (2019). I definitely heard Him speak and began the new school year with excitement. The first weekend our church had a women’s conference and God confirmed all the things He had been telling me over the summer as well as giving me an invitation to … surrender my dreams and trust God with His dream for my life instead.

What?!? I thought I had done that two years ago when He invited me to take a sabbatical from writing for 9 months. I thought I had given up my dreams six years ago, and two years ago, and even more recently than that. But I realized I hadn’t. I was still holding onto the way with which I wanted my life to look. Call it a dream or wishful thinking, but I was holding tightly and I hadn’t surrendered it. God invited me that Saturday afternoon to trust Him completely … to let go of what I thought life should look like and instead let Him paint my schedule His way.

Was I willing to trust His way … or would I continue to insist on mine?

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

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Endure

 

 

“But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.” Hebrews 10:39 (The Message)

 

When I used to think about the word endure, I have to admit, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I thought of all these horrible things that I had to do because they were good for me but I had absolutely no desire for: choking down cooked spinach because it’s healthy; exercising for 30 minutes a day, every day; cleaning the house; ____ (you fill in the blank).

However, I attended a women’s conference in September at my church and the word “endure” has become more pleasant. I would even venture to say I’ve changed my perspective about enduring.

Enduring now means pressing in, pushing through, remaining faithful, and obeying one step, one choice, or one decision at a time. It means when God speaks to me and tells me to do something, even when (or maybe especially when) I have that little nagging feeling in the back of my mind that “this assignment is going to be anything but easy,” if I choose to endure, remain faithful and obedient, God will bless that choice. That’s endurance.

Enduring doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be torture. It can be choosing every day to ask God to help me in the painful moments so that I can fulfill the assignment He has given me to do, for however long He chooses to keep me in this position.

Think about Noah – he “endured” building an ark year after year because he knew God called him to that assignment in order to replenish the earth – he endured for the greater good and in return, his family was saved from death. Do you think he enjoyed coming home from his day job only to put in hours at his ark assignment? Genesis 6 gives a detailed account of how he was to build the ark and with the dimensions it was, this assignment couldn’t be knocked out in one weekend.

What about Moses? Exodus 2-4 describes how he lived in the desert with his father-in-law and wife for years, before his encounter with God and the burning bush in preparation for his big assignment of leading a bunch of complaining, grumbling people through the desert for another 40 years. I’m thinking the first 40 years were less painful and definitely less noisy for him than the latter 40 years. Yet, he chose to obey because it was his assignment from God and he was used to help lead God’s chosen people out of Egypt into freedom.

Six years ago I surrendered my life to God to use however He chose. Three years ago I began praying specifically for an answer to a prayer that still has not come to fruition. This past September I surrendered my dreams to God (fully this time with no hidden agenda) and asked Him to replace my desires with His dreams.

While on the outside it may look like I’m still “enduring,” my perspective about the journey, the process has changed. I am choosing joy. I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to look for and see God in the little and the big. I am choosing to endure because I know, in His time, if I continue to obey, be faithful and endure the circumstances I’m in currently, God will bless that obedience and faithfulness with the fulfillment of His dreams in my life.

Do you think Noah envisioned as a teenager one day God would use him to replenish the world and to save his family by building a giant boat? Do you think Moses, while wandering around in the desert, exiled from Egypt, had any inkling God was using that preparation to save His chosen people from bondage and lead them into freedom? However, God chose to use both of those men to fulfill His dream, one much greater than any they could have thought up.

And, my friends, I’m believing God is going to use this time of preparation I’ve been in to fulfill His dream for my life, no matter how He wants it to look. And what God is willing to do for one of His children, He wants to do for all. Is there a dream you need to give up in order to let God fulfill His dream for your life? Is there something He is calling you to endure in preparation for walking out His dream? If so, I want to encourage you not to give up. We will endure together so we can give Him glory for the answer when He chooses to open the door to His dream for our lives.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

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About the Book

Book Title: Miles from Where We Started

Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Genre: Christian Romance/Family life

Release date: October 16, 2018

These no-longer-newlyweds want out of this road trip—and their marriage. Too bad they can’t find the off ramp.

Weeks away from their one-year wedding anniversary, Mallory and Connor Duncan can’t even agree on how to end their marriage. But when a last-minute crisis lands them on a three-thousand-mile road trip together, Mallory wonders if their story may not be over after all.

The trip begins to unravel before the key is even in the ignition, and an at-risk, trouble-seeking missile of an eleven-year-old is unexpectedly launched into their travel plans. Close quarters get even tighter, and the couple believes this whole experience will spell disaster.

Their first year of marriage hasn’t been the arm-in-arm togetherness they expected. How can they find a new beginning when the road ends?

 

Click here to purchase your copy!

 

About the Author

 

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events. She serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences across the country. She married her grade school sweetheart, and the two live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

 

 

 

Guest Post from Cynthia

I have a confession to make. I heart millennials.

My other novels have had a few millennial characters. Some even played starring roles. But I knew there was more to the heart of millennials than I could gain from listening to the often unfair sighing or comedy routines about that generation. As a person, I wanted to know them better—what are they really like? What challenges do they face with which previous generations saddled them? What strengths to they offer our culture?

Until now, I hadn’t written a story about a millennial couple whose marriage was in crisis. Like, serious crisis. I-don’t-want-to-be-married-to-you-anymore. That kind of crisis.

As any good novelist knows, part of what we do to our characters is make the situation worse. So, millennial couple, approaching their one-year anniversary, ready to call it quits because “This marriage thing is really hard. Is it supposed to be so much work?” But what if…? What if they were forced to be together for three weeks…in a micro-camper…on America’s backroads…with an 11-year-old foster boy troublemaker…and both the husband’s AND the wife’s jobs depended on the trip’s success?

Plot idea in hand, I set off to write Miles from Where We Started, not entirely sure when I began the journey where they would end up or how they’d get there. It was an education for me in so many ways. The impact of the turning point of the story? In the words of my millennial friends, “That’s lit!”

Side note: I’m a big fan of a young teen musician at our church. The boy has mad skills as a keyboard artist. He approaches life as if it’s an endless game of Ninja Warrior. Why walk when you can vault into the room? Why walk up a flight of stairs when you can hop four at a time? He also sports a perpetual smile and is famous for his kindness, but his eyes give away that a little mischief may be hiding behind that smile. I asked Judah’s permission to use his name (and a little bit of his personality) as the foster child character in Miles from Where We Started. I can’t wait for him to read the part he inspired.

Can’t wait for you to read it, too.

Hemmed in Hope,

Cynthia

My Review:

Miles from where we started was an amazing book. I got lost in it from the first page and am still thinking about it long after I closed it weeks ago. This book had so many different nuances to it – I could feel the emotions of Mallory and Connor so vividly and then add in the precocious 11-year-old as well as all the interesting people they met along the way and let’s just say – I wish I was on their adventure, micro camper and all.

This book was amazing – it was a funny, sweet story that kept me laughing and entertained; yet had such a depth to it that I can’t stop thinking about it, as I said, weeks after having read it. This is a book that will stay with me for years … and I can’t wait to read another Cynthia Ruchti book. She has become another favorite author for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celebrate Lit and was under no obligation to post a positive review.

 

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, October 25

Reading Is My SuperPower, October 25

The Power of Words, October 25

All-of-a-kind Mom, October 26

Lighthouse Academy, October 26

Real World Bible Study, October 26

Quiet Quilter, October 27

Kristin’s Book Reviews, October 27

Christian Bookaholic, October 27

cherylbbookblog, October 28

Simple Harvest Reads, October 28 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)

Remembrancy, October 28

Godly Book Reviews, October 29

Captive Dreams Window, October 29

By The Book, October 29

Maureen’s Musings, October 30

Spoken from the Heart , October 30

SusanLovesBooks, October 30

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, October 31

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 31

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 31

Mary Hake, November 1

Book by Book, November 1

amandainpa , November 1

Pause for Tales, November 2

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 2

Just Commonly, November 2

Southern Gal Loves to Read, November 3

Baker Kella, November 3

Two Points of Interest, November 3

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 4

Inklings and Notions, November 4

Bibliophile Reviews, November 4

Proud to Be an Autism Mom, November 5

Texas Book-aholic, November 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 5

Janice’s Book Reviews, November 6

Carpe Diem, November 6

A Baker’s Perspective, November 6

A Diva’s Heart, November 7

Reader’s Cozy Corner, November 7

Bigreadersite, November 7

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Cynthia is giving away a grand prize of the Adventure begins” large tote bag, “This way to adventure” travel notebook, “Home is Where We Park It” metal wall hanging, a teardrop camper birdhouse, PLUS a $50 gift Visa gift card…to start your adventure fund!!

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/d4ea/miles-from-where-we-started-celebration-tour-giveaway

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“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water …”

Exodus 23:25 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how God sometimes will even answer selfish prayers with a “yes,” just because He loves us. He provided a rebate check for us to use for trip trunk treats for our getaway to Ohio.

Today let me share about how God goes above and beyond at times for us as well. Two years ago we made this exact trip when our oldest turned 16. It was his turn to spend the day with his dad and I had the privilege of hanging with our other two children. I say that because this time around, I knew what to expect and could plan a little better.

We would be at the hotel all day long with plenty to keep us busy, but I like waking up with a cup of “joe” and the only option at this hotel was a Starbucks. We had received a rebate in mid-August for $12 and I was saving it for such a time as this. I was happy to think I had $12 to spend on coffee for myself (I was happy to share with my husband too) and had saved the money specifically for this trip.

The Thursday before we left, I was looking through our emails and came across a Groupon which I almost deleted before I realized what it was – Starbucks – spend $5 and get $10! Using the credit card that had the rebate money on it, I was able to get $17 instead of $12 to spend on coffee for the weekend!

Did I need the extra $5? No. I was happy with the $12 I had been saving. But God is the God of more than enough. God blesses us so that we can in turn bless others. And sometimes God just delights in blessing His children.

Not only did He provide money for us to buy snacks for the kids (something they enjoy on long car rides) but He provided an extra bonus for me for my coffee fund. And, on our trip, I didn’t spend the entire amount, so now I have extra that my husband and I can go on a coffee date (apple cider for him, pumpkin latte for me) that is totally paid for by Abba Himself.

Does God always answer “yes” to our prayers? No, sometimes He answers “no” and those are just as important as the “yeses.”

Come back tomorrow and I will share how rebates for trip trunk treats and Starbucks was about so much more than snacks and coffee. It prepared me to hear and actually be excited about a huge “no” I received that same week, about something so much more important.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

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