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“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time about how God allowed me to marry someone who knows how to cherish me, not just love me, which by definition are two very different emotions.

This past weekend, I hurt my husband emotionally, quite badly.  I did something, not out of spite or malice, but something that hurt him deeply and I felt immediate remorse for it. I apologized as soon as I realized what I’d done, but that didn’t take away the sting or the anger or the hurt he felt from my actions.  And, to hurt the one I love, the one I cherish, felt awful.

I gave him space after my apology and it wasn’t until almost 24 hours later that we made the loving choice to talk about what happened.  I say loving choice because by nature men would rather not talk about it whereas women, by nature, need to reconnect verbally.  We went into the privacy of our room and it was then we shared our hearts.

I admitted what I did was wrong, why it was wrong and how I knew I had hurt him more deeply than intended because of what my action spoke nonverbally to him.  He admitted to me how he felt, why it hurt (confirming what I suspected) and he was able to show me in a way that I still felt cherished what my actions really did.

I have issues from my past that hate conflict.  When conflict occurs between my husband and I, my thoughts always jump to worst case scenarios.  I have insight into why that happens, and while my rational head tells me I’m being irrational, it still happens.

However, this time was different.  Maybe it’s because God has been wooing me for months and showing me how much He cherishes me, but this conversation was different.  Even though I knew I’d messed up and had hurt my husband deeply, I still felt loved during our difficult conversation.  Even when explaining to me his feelings, I felt protected, nurtured and cherished.  Even when I didn’t deserve to feel that way and should have been “punished” or at least left to think about what I did, he showed me grace.

Isn’t that what God does?  When we mess up and come to Him with a repentant heart, He counters that confession not with the punishment we deserve but with grace and mercy that we don’t deserve.  Even though I know I’ll mess up again and hurt my husband in the future, I have assurance I don’t have to play worst case scenarios in my mind because we’ll work through the next mistake, the next hurt, the next issue together.  God gives us the same assurance.  His love isn’t dependent upon our actions or being perfect.  He loves us, He cherishes us because we’re His children.  Just as my husband cherishes me even when I don’t deserve it, God cherishes us perfectly, unconditionally, just because that’s who He is.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Cherish: protect and care for (someone) lovingly; hold (something) dear

Love: an intense feeling of deep affection; feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).  Google dictionary

 

I’ve been happily married for over 18 years to my best friend and we dated for two years prior to that.  We started out as friends and I’ve mentioned more than once on my blog how the first summer we were together, I didn’t know who I was dating since three of us hung around together and just got to know each other and have fun.  The three included my now husband, his best friend who had a hand in arranging the blind date where we met and myself.

My husband has a wonderful way of making me feel cherished every single day which is very different from love, according to the above definitions.  It’s the little things like backing my car into the driveway instead of pulling in so I can get out easier in the morning, bringing home my favorite flavor of coffee even though I have more than enough other coffee in the house to last me for a few months, to showing our kids how much he loves me by putting my needs before theirs (when appropriate), having my back when I’ve had to discipline, and planning activities he knows refresh me like taking hikes, cuddling on the couch or watching movies he probably wouldn’t sit through if he didn’t have me in his life.

It’s also the big things, such as scouring the internet to find the best and most healthy alternatives for our family because he cares what we put into our bodies, planning fun family getaways down to the last detail so we will all enjoy ourselves, helping me set up, execute and tear down garage sales without any complaint, and setting examples for our kids by doing the dirty work in the house instead of pawning it off on them in the name of “teaching responsibility”.

However, it’s not just in his actions that show me I’m cherished.  It’s also in his words.  He shows me unconditional love.  Even when I’m exasperating and unrealistic and illogical at times (and trust me, I can be all of the above and then some), he shows patience and kindness and love with what he says and how he says it.  We share inside jokes, family jokes, private jokes, and “just between us” jokes.

I’ve shared in the past how God has had me on a journey to learn how much He cherishes me and I believe one of the (many) blessings that has come out of my marriage is God uses my husband to show me in tangible ways a glimpse of how my Father loves me. While my husband can’t love me perfectly (and I can’t love him perfectly), he loves unconditionally very well.  And it’s only taken me 18 years to fully accept and embrace that love because it’s taken me 40+ years to learn to fully embrace and accept God’s love.  I always knew God loved me, but to feel cherished by God brings a whole new element to our relationship.

If you think we’ve never had disagreements or issues, come back tomorrow and I will show you how it’s still possible to be cherished in the midst of imperfection.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:5-8 (The Message)

 

I spoke in Giving God My Time about finding too many books to read and not enough time to read them.  Before I had my “ah ha” moment, I was browsing through Barnes and Noble one night while on a date with my husband and noticed a three book series that looked good.  Our library had all three of the books, available now, so I requested them.  The series is Sensible Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Brown.  If you want to read some great books that focus on four women in a fictionalized story yet deliver lots of spiritual meat within that context, pick them up and read them.  These are great.

I’ve come to love the character Hannah.  She and I are quite similar in that I’ve struggled with many of the issues she struggles with.  In the first book, Sensible Shoes, she took her role of being responsible very seriously in life and therefore, God was inviting her to learn how to have fun.  I’ve shared many times about how God is bringing fun back into our family and how I’m working on kicking Eyeore out for good.

In the second book, Two Steps Forward, she learns another truth that hit me hard.  I didn’t really have a name for it but knew I suffered from it.  I have talked many times about being a recovering perfectionist, and in my opinion, one of the symptoms of that is putting a lot of pressure on myself not to miss God’s will for my life.  If He gives me a rhema word, (a fancy way of saying a promise personalized for me and my life that is backed up by Scripture) then I stress myself out making sure I’m dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s so I don’t miss the deadline, the expiration date, the whatever I think I’m going to miss.  And living that way is stressful.

God has slowly been showing me throughout the last four years that He made me the way I am.  And He knows I need a huge neon billboard flashing in front of me before I’ll  be able to see what He’s trying to show me.  What I need to remember is He doesn’t get frustrated with that part of my personality.  He made me that way! He knows what it takes to get my attention and He knows my heart – I’m paying attention and want to do His will.  Therefore, I need to learn to relax some and trust He will show me, in His time, what He wants me to know and what steps He wants me to take.  And my past history has proven that theory correct time after time after time.

By placing the responsibility of getting my attention on God’s shoulders and taking it off my shoulders, it lifts the invisible weight that has made living joyfully difficult.  And I’m not selfishly pawning my responsibility off on God – no, I’m actually obeying by trusting His plan and letting Him be in charge.

In the story Hannah remarked after having lived with mismanaging the responsibility for so long how it’s going to take some practice to keep the responsibility on God’s shoulders, shifting her focus to enjoying the blessings He gives during the process.  I think it will be difficult for me at first too; but I’m up for the challenge of continuing to hand the responsibility back over to God when I try to carry it for Him.  He knows it’s too heavy for me; that’s why He never asked me to carry it in the first place.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“God claims Earth and everything in it, God claims World and all who live on it.”

Psalm 24:1 (The Message)

 

I spoke earlier in My Relationship with God is Not a Race about how God wants us to enjoy the journey of getting to know Him instead of rushing through the lessons, anxious about the “pop quizzes” and wondering if we’re doing enough, fast enough. I also wrote another blog earlier this year, Obedience with Finances and Time, where I spoke about how God was teaching me that my time is just as valuable to Him as my finances.  He wants me to make good use of my time just like He wants me to spend and budget our finances wisely as well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time and making good use of my time.  I even fasted, wanting to draw closer to God because of my desire to go into the next season, the second half of 2017, making sure to only say “yes” to God’s best for my schedule and learning how to say “no” to what’s not His best for my life at this stage.  And it was only after I started fasting and digging in deeper than I realized that doesn’t encompass just work related activities – it includes everything in my life.

I was emailing a friend and we were talking about one of our favorite shared interests: books.  She was telling me about these great books she’s reading and I was sharing with her some great books I’m reading and telling her about the long list I have written down of books I’m waiting to reserve at the library because of the 20 books I have on my shelf that I haven’t read yet… and that’s when it hit me.  All the books I’m referring to are great books to read.  I know I will read important truths that I can put into practice.  However, when it becomes more work and more stressful to read them, then I know it’s not God’s best “yes” for my life.

So, I decided, after reading as many of the books I have on my shelf, slowly, as I can before their due date, I’m going to start reserving the nonfiction books one at a time and savoring them, getting as much out of them as possible before moving on to the next book.  And, I’m going to continue to ask God to speak to me regarding my time, my schedule, my life, so that I learn how to say “yes” to His best and say “no” to everything else, kindly but firmly.  It won’t be easy.  I love books and coffee and ministry and doing things with family and friends and seem to never have enough.  However, I think this will be a great way for God to teach me contentment, satiety, self control and delayed gratification.  Those are great qualities to model to my children and to implement regularly into my life.

I’m learning that giving God my time is more than just my schedule.  It’s everything in my life that effects my schedule – including when I go shopping, what books are on my “to be read” list, giving myself permission to watch a family movie, etc.  I want to enjoy my journey with my Father.  And I can’t do that very well when I’m stretched too thin or stressed out by self-imposed goals that were never part of my Father’s plan for my life to begin with.  I’m gladly giving Him my time because I know I will receive so many blessings in return for that obedience.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Diligently keep the words of this Covenant. Do what they say so that you will live well and wisely in every detail.” Deuteronomy 29:9 (The Message)

 

At the very first (and only) writer’s conference I attended over five years ago, I remember hearing some sage wisdom I took to heart.  We were told to envision what we wanted our life to look like in five years and then create some goals around that image to ensure that we would get there, or get close to what that image looked like.  The speaker told us also that we could choose to not create any goals, but five years would come regardless.  We would be five years older either way: still waiting to begin living the life we wanted, somewhere along the journey or having completed those goals and ready to tackle the next ones God wants us to achieve.

Looking at my life five years ago, I weighed less back then but was carrying more baggage.  God has taken me on a journey to help heal my emotional eating.  It’s been a long, arduous journey with many detours and pitfalls along the way, but I can honestly say I’m further along now than I was five years ago.  Last year He whispered to me the program He wanted me to use to help guide me into healthy choices and a sobering and honest look at how much food I was really eating.  While incredibly eye opening, it helped me start to restructure my eating plan and incorporate regular exercise into my daily life.

This year He has continued that training and told me specifically that I will win this fight.  I have the tools I need.  It will be difficult but I have already won the battle.  However, I have to step onto the battlefield and start fighting.  He gave me one simple phrase that has helped tremendously, “Slowly cut out the bad,” and that, along with the training and knowledge I received last year has made quite a difference.   I was able to look back over the past year and see just where He has already helped me cut out the bad and replace those choices with healthier alternatives. Instead of my normal protocol of “punish myself, deny myself, take all the enjoyment out of life,” God has shown me a better way.  Small changes, starting now, add up to big benefits later.

I realize I’ve already given up mindless snacking at night, daily desserts or sweets after each meal and replaced some of my unhealthy choices for meals with healthier (and at times tastier) alternatives.  Those changes in themselves mark great progress.  In addition, I had stopped buying flavored creamer for my coffee and was only enjoying it on special occasions outside my house. Within the past month, I have given up all creamer and now drink my coffee black. I never thought I would reach that milestone again, having been introduced to flavored creamer, iced mochas and… you get the picture. I did it more to help with my allergies (getting rid of dairy) but found that it was a good choice overall.  The next area I tackled was the “snack cupboard” and “sugared cereals.” I actually stopped buying sugared cereals altogether because none of us need them, and the snack cupboard was just empty calories that didn’t make me feel good inside or out.

I’m not sure what the next “slowly cut out the bad” area will be, but I do know that when I tackle a big issue by starting small, healthy habits become my new lifestyle.  Then, as our family continues to walk the path God is calling us in the area of ministry He chooses, I will be ready – spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

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“Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” I Peter 3:15 (The Message)

 

I was talking last time we were together about what type of relationship I want to have with my Heavenly Father – not a registered class at a college but a living, breathing investment of myself and Him together, getting to know each other and building upon that connection.

As much as I believe that, it’s also about more than just having a relationship.  Especially in today’s society, there is an importance to knowing the “why” behind what I believe.  To being able to talk to others about the “why” behind the reasons I can trust God is a living, breathing Holy entity and not just some imaginary person I made up.  Why I believe the Bible to be His infallible word and why everything written between the covers of that book leads my life.

Three fifths of my family took a class at our church this spring. More of our family would take it, but they don’t meet the age requirements quite yet.  It’s an insightful, wonderful class that gets me thinking about the “why” behind what I believe.  I’m ashamed to admit, but before taking the class, I believed some false ideas about the Bible and never really cared to question them.  For instance, I knew that our world wasn’t created “millions of years ago” despite what the science books thought, but I never realized how important that line of thinking was and the importance of being able to explain the reason why I believe it’s only 6000 years old.  I’m not writing this blog to argue with those who don’t share my beliefs, but instead to share the importance of knowing why I believe the whole Bible is true in order to help others see that God’s invitation for salvation is very real as well.

I’ve always been more about relationships and people and encouragement over facts and rules and rituals.  That’s my personality.  I live more emotionally than factually; but I’m realizing how important it is to teach my children about both – the importance and value of an intimate relationship with God as well as the facts behind His history. There are some things God asks us to believe in faith.  Being an emotional person versus factual person – that comes easier to me than maybe to others.  However, it’s important to know the facts God has revealed to people through science and artifacts and data to help explain things to others.

I believe God wants His children to be knowledgeable in both – understanding the facts and truths from a Biblical point of view and taking the time to connect with Him in an intimate relationship as we get to know Him deeper.

I would be happy to share with you the resources our Bible study has been using to teach us the interesting facts I’ve been learning about the truth of the Bible, the proof scientists have found and how amazing God’s creation truly is. After all, it truly is more than just a relationship.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” I Corinthians 9:24-25 (The Message)

 

I don’t always like my personality.  I feel disrespectful saying that because I’ve learned over the past few years how insulting it is to God when we say we don’t like something about us that He created and hurting my Father is the last thing I want to do.  However, I think the part of my personality I don’t like wasn’t part of His original design for me.  Or maybe He allowed that aspect of me so that I’d need to reach out and ask Him for help.

I have a tendency at times, maybe it’s to combat the laziness I also possess, to jump in with both feet and bite off more than I can chew.  I don’t think that was God’s purpose when He created me. I’m thinking He wanted me to have that zeal for living but to learn how to balance it alongside rest, fun, etc.  So, it’s not a coincidence that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my relationship with God isn’t a race.  It’s something to be savored and enjoyed – including the ways I grow deeper in that relationship with Him.

I used to work for The Book Club Network and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was in charge of their READERS ONLY GROUP where they give away free Christian/family friendly books every month in exchange for an honest review.  These books are nonfiction as well as every genre you can think of for fiction.  Great books.  Wonderful books.  My own personal library.  (If you’re interested in checking them out for yourself, visit www.bookfun.org) And I learned a lot about God as I read the different types of nonfiction books offered. I use a “Read Through the New Testament in a Year” guide for my Bible reading every day and then I like to read a chapter in a nonfiction devotional type book as well.  It works well for me and I grow deeper in many different spiritual practices that way: marriage, parenting, prayer, self control, etc.

God invited me to resign from that position in mid-January and since then, I’ve been playing a lot of catch up in every area of my life.  That includes reading books from the library.  But my schedule is much busier than it was previously, so I’m finding I have multiple books I’ve reserved from the library sitting, waiting to be read, and I’m having to give them back before I can crack open the spine.  And I’ve been feeling guilty.

However, just because a book is offered at the library, doesn’t mean I have to read it right now.  It’s not a race to see how fast I can read all the great information to help me grow in my relationship with Him; it’s more about the journey and asking God what He wants to teach me in our relationship together. God would much rather I enjoy my time with Him – exploring, talking, debating, communicating, listening and recalculating when I get off course then to check off some imaginary boxes because I’ve “mastered” yet another topic.  It’s a relationship, not a registered class.  It’s about building that relationship, not racing to some imaginary finish line.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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