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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 (NIV)

Every year when the kids go back to school the house gets too quiet and I get a little lonely. Two things that help to lift my spirits are a good cup of coffee (or two or three or…) and a beautiful smelling candle. There is something about smell that brings me comfort.

I was talking to my husband about buying a candle, but that’s as far as it went. I have a hard time splurging on myself when it’s not a necessity, so I thought about going to the store and seeing if there were any I would want and then saving up to buy one in a few weeks. But the first week of school is always so busy and this year we were having car issues too so I hadn’t even made it that far.

However, my husband is someone who listens with his heart.  Three days later, he surprised me with this beautiful candle. I didn’t have to wait until I could go to the store and pick one out myself, I didn’t have to save up for it and the weather this year for the first week of school was more fall-like than “end of summer hot” so it was a perfect surprise!

Today as I’m working, I’m smelling my husband’s love burning on the counter, waiting for my family to come home so we can all be together and create some more fun memories together this weekend.

But that’s not the only way love smells in my house.  It’s also in the coffee my husband (or my children) surprise me with or let me pick out “just because.”  It’s in the coffee my prayer partner sends so that we can “drink coffee together and pray” daily for our family, friends and all the needs that cross our paths.  It’s in the beautiful flowers that my husband buys and plants in the planters outside our living room windows and then faithfully waters them when I forget so I can see and smell them all summer.  It’s in the baths my husband encourages me to take to relax and de-stress after long weeks.  It’s the cologne I smell as I kiss him goodbye which reminds me of when we were dating or a different cologne that takes me back to our wedding and subsequent honeymoon.  It’s the campfires that my husband surprises me with in our backyard because we have a long weekend and there’s nothing quite as relaxing as watching a fire while spending time with those you love.

It’s the big and little smells throughout the year – the scent of fresh rain which reminds me of lazy Sunday afternoons cuddled up with my family watching movies or reading quietly.  It’s the smell of peppermint coffee that forever takes me back to a blizzard when we all shoveled and then headed over to his parents’ house for breakfast and a fun day of playing games on our unexpected snow day off together.

I could keep going… but I’m sure you have your own list of what love smells like at your house.  Whatever the favorite scent, love is what makes it so unforgettable.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

 

I admit… I have a long way to go in the area of listening well.  I thought I was a good listener, but I realized lately I’m really not.  We dealt with an issue with one of our children recently and I was trying to understand the heart behind the issue.  The problem was… I’m not sure our child even knew the answer to that question.  Trying to solve the problem using knowledge I thought I had didn’t work.

It wasn’t until I took the time to get quiet with our child and started asking questions, then really listening to the answers I was given before I started to understand.  I thought I knew the answers to the questions I was asking.  I didn’t know the answers at all.  And that is when I realized I need to learn how to listen better.  Longer.  Deeper.

I think I’m the same way with my Heavenly Father.  If He starts to answer my prayers, do I think He’s finished or wait to listen for the whole answer?  Do I think I already know what He’s going to say and therefore don’t listen wholeheartedly or start to fashion my answer before He’s done speaking?

One of my words for 2018 is to be still… I know I have a problem with that.  I could use excess caffeine (and/or) sugar as an excuse, but the real issue is that sometimes, I’m afraid of what the answer is going to be if I sit and listen, truly listen.

Is He going to yell at me?  Tell me everything I’m doing wrong?  Have I failed Him yet again and is He going to point that out? What area in my life needs worked on now?

Not only do I need to work on my listening skills, but I need to work on my approach. God loves me.  He wants the best for me and sometimes that means putting me back on the right path.  Listening correctly the first time is the best, but since I’m still learning, sometimes He has to get my attention in other ways.

God wants to speak to me.  He truly does.  And I want to hear His voice.  I truly do.  I’m the one who needs to work on my listening skills.  He doesn’t need to work on how He speaks.  When I get quiet, just like I had to with our child so that I could really hear the heart behind the words, I need to get quiet with God and really hear His heart behind His message.

I’m definitely a work in progress in this area.  Both with my family and friends as well as with my Heavenly Father.  I’m glad He loves me enough to bring this flaw to my attention.  I’m looking forward to practicing the art of being still before God and hearing all that He wants to speak to me because I love when God speaks.  I need to remember that taking the time to listen pleases my Father and fills me with joy too.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

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“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” James 1:19 (The Message)

 

Several years ago God showed me I had improvements to make in the listening arena.  I thought, though, I was making progress with positive steps toward seeing improvement. I realized this fall, though, that I’m not as far along as I thought.

Listening requires more than just our ears tuned into the conversation.  Real, genuine listening involves watching body language, listening to tone, inflection and actual words spoken.  Listening even requires some physical touch (when appropriate) from us toward who we’re listening to in order to let the person know we’re fully engaged.  Listening is much more than just hearing.

This past fall showed me how much further I still need to go in this department.  We had a bit of a rough start to the school year with one of our children.  As a result, I was determined to answer the question why things took such a downward turn when they had been going so well. I thought I already knew the answer.  I had asked and received an answer… but it wasn’t until we chose to sit down with some popcorn and “meeting milk” that I was able to realize just how much I hadn’t been listening.  It was during this one-on-one time that I put away all distractions and truly listened with all my senses.

I saw the confusion on our child’s face mixed with some sadness.  I heard the frustration in the voice because even our child couldn’t completely describe the feelings being felt.  We touched knees as I asked hard questions and then waited for the true answers that took a little while to come.  I listened quietly to questions being asked of me so that I could honestly and truthfully answer those.

That afternoon opened my eyes to how much I still need to learn about true listening.  I hate to admit but since that time I still don’t reach the mark of true listening as often as I would like, although I hope I’m improving.  I also realized that each one of our children are very different and each one need to be listened to in unique, personalized ways.  While “meeting milk” works for one, frozen Coke’s work for another and something else for the third.  It’s our job as parents to determine the best way to listen to each of our children and then make a point to let them know they are important enough to be listened to that way.

I learned a valuable lesson this past fall… listening is so much more than simply hearing.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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I had the privilege of being a guest on Never… Ever… Give Up Hope, a radio show hosted by Carol Graham that is heard internationally.  She interviewed me about the circumstances of how I ended up publishing Hope During Heartache.

If you’re interested in listening, here is the link:  https://neverevergiveuphopenet.blogspot.ca/2018/01/there-can-be-hope-during-devastating.html

Thank you, Carol, for having me as your guest.  I enjoyed having a chance to share with you.

 

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The Summer of the Momma

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

 

God blessed me this last summer.  One of our children started calling me a nickname that I hadn’t heard in years.  I kind of wondered why it suddenly appeared again, but it was a nice nickname and I enjoyed it so I didn’t think too seriously about it and just enjoyed listening to it being spoken lovingly… multiple times a day.

It wasn’t until many weeks into summer that I think I realized why God allowed this blessing, this particular summer.  It was the last summer all three kids would be home as full time as teenagers can.  It was the last summer that we could consider “lazy” as a family before jobs, ministries and other activities pulled us all in opposite directions.  It was the last summer of innocent childhood fun before the responsibilities of adulthood overtook some of our young adults and time became more precious.

I will always look back on the summer of 2017 as the summer of the “Momma” because it was a summer I will cherish for its memories.  It marked spontaneous trips as a family of five; our first mother-daughter trip that took us cross country to celebrate the wedding of my niece, her cousin before our daughter entered high school and all the responsibility that entails.  It was a summer of dates with our youngest while his older siblings were away at band camp and church camp as he learned how to fill his days without them around to keep him company.  It was a summer of laughter-filled bonfires because we could, volleyball games on the lawn and inside family jokes that resulted.

Life is meant to be a series of changes.  I haven’t always enjoyed change, although I’m learning to embrace it, accept it and even look forward to it.  As I start the process of learning to say goodbye to our family unit the way it looks now, I look forward to the way it will possibly eventually include spouses as well as, if God chooses, grandchildren down the road.

We still have a few years before those changes will occur, but in the meantime, I will always remember the summer of 2017 as the summer of the Momma.  A time to love, laugh and make memories together before our family unit changes again.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

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Good Morning Friends:

Last year God laid it on my heart to write a Bible study/book club/discussion book titled Caring for the Caregiver.  I would love some help in getting it into the hands of people that would be encouraged by it or benefit from it.

If you have a book club or belong to an organization that might enjoy being encouraged in this area, or, if you attend a church that regularly offers Bible studies, would you consider approaching the leader of the group and asking if this is a book they would consider using?

Please reach out if you or someone you know is interested in reading the book to see if it would be a good fit and I will be happy to send out a copy. When you send the initial email, I will let you know the information I need in order to get a copy to them.  clSwalwell99@gmail.com

Thank you so much for considering helping me in this way.  I want to make sure I’m being obedient to my Father who gave me the words to write the book.  I would like to make it available to those who would be encouraged by it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how God used our 8-year-old child to introduce a new tradition to our family to give our firsts to God at the beginning of the school year in a way that impacted our family more than anointing the doorframes with oil would have.  As a result, I learned two valuable lessons that night.

First, I don’t always have to be in charge.  The same way God taught me to submit completely to my husband last year, I need to submit to others in my family, to friends, to co-workers, to bosses.  My ideas aren’t always the best ideas.  I have a lot to learn from others if I take the time to listen, truly listen to their hearts.

Second, just because we’ve “always done it this way” doesn’t mean we always have to do it that way.  God cares more about our hearts and why we’re doing something than the actual tradition itself.  Would it have been wrong to anoint the doorframes with oil?  No, not if after praying God didn’t replace that tradition with another.  But, because I honestly prayed for insight and promised God I would submit, I believe since God answered my prayer through our son’s suggestion, I would have been disobedient to God’s still small voice had I objected.

Instead, God prompted my heart to listen ahead of time so that when my son asked for the opportunity to introduce a new tradition, I was already prepared to say yes. Not only did our family get to enjoy a time of togetherness, but our son was validated that he has great things to offer God that are all his own.

Will we repeat that tradition again?  I hope so.  Will it replace anointing the doorframes with oil?  Maybe, maybe not.  I realized through this simple invitation and the beginning of a new tradition that God loves hearts that want to obey.  I don’t care the tradition we use to dedicate our home to God.  I’m just glad that our family has a heart bent toward dedicating our home to God on a regular basis.  And I’m excited to see what other traditions may be introduced in the future because every tradition that draws us closer to each other by drawing us closer to our Father is always welcome in this family.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

 

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