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I’m reading a book right now that told the story of a married couple in which the husband sustained a closed head injury as a child, resulting in the loss of his short-term memory. While the doctors were able to help him recover, he lives with a maximum two-minute retention of memory. He can learn things, but they must be rehearsed many, many times until they become part of his long-term memory.

 

“Most people think that having this memory thing is so stressful on a marriage, and thus they assume it’s a negative thing. It certainly has its drawbacks, but the Lord has revealed several huge lessons” through her husband’s disability.

“When Patrick sees someone who is clearly having a bad day, he’s happy to listen to them and let them blow off steam, reminding them, ‘You can tell me anything and get it off your chest. I won’t tell anyone because I won’t remember it two minutes from now. But if it makes you feel better for saying it out loud and it helps you move on, I’m here for you. And you’ll never have to look at me with guilt because I won’t ever remember the conversation.”

 

What would it be like if I could be that person? If I could be a safety net for others to vent, for them to “tell me anything” because they wouldn’t have to feel guilty around me later or worry I would share their issues with someone else? What a unique gift Patrick offers to his friends. What a way to turn his burden into a blessing for others.

 

What is a unique blessing you can share with those around you, giving without expecting anything in return?

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Last fall, the day before Halloween, I got sick. I felt fine all day and then wham … about 4 PM it hit me. I felt miserable for about 1-2 weeks. I slowly improved, except for a lingering cough that I couldn’t shake. Unfortunately as someone who has developed weather and exercise-induced asthma in her adult life, coughing seems to be the norm anywhere from November through February – or all of November through February, so I didn’t think much about it.

 

It was affecting my work, my worship (I couldn’t sing at church without stopping to cough more often than singing), my relationships, and my health. I coughed all the time and so hard it literally hurt my ribs. I would use my inhaler and it would help some … but not enough. I even had two instances where I couldn’t catch my breath for about 5 minutes. That’s just plain scary

 

Before you think I was just being irresponsible, I would have moments, or days, where I felt like I was improving, so it seemed silly to go to the doctor when I was “on the upswing.” Only I wasn’t.

Finally, after disrupting everyone around me for about 8 weeks, and growing steadily concerned myself because I realized I was getting worse, not better, and it was getting harder and harder to breathe regularly, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with an asthma exasperation that had gotten quite serious. They prescribed steroids and my inhaler, with the concern that if this didn’t clear it up, I would have to go on daily maintenance medication. (I really hate taking medication if I don’t have to, so to hear that was quite disheartening.) 

 

The first dose of prednisone worked, while I was on it, but the day it was finished, I was back to not being able to catch my breath and coughing continuously. So I called and they did another round, this time a taper which lasted longer and along with my inhaler, and plenty of rest, it reduced the inflammation that had grown out of control for 8 weeks. In the meantime, my husband bought me a natural remedy to use as needed if I started coughing again, before things got out of control.

 

I am happy to report it’s been about 3 months now since I’ve been off the steroid. I’ve only used my inhaler maybe twice and the natural remedy about five times total. (It’s a twice daily medication when asthma is at its worst, so five times in three months shows how much my breathing has improved.) I used it again yesterday at the beginning signs of discomfort and within 15 minutes I was breathing calmly and the coughing had stopped. 

 

I say this to give God all the glory, honor and praise for healing me. Every Sunday when I enter into praise and worship at our church and sing as loudly as possible, I thank Him for every inhale and exhale of my lungs that is done without coughing and without discomfort.

 

I have stopped taking my breath for granted. Every time I sing at home or in the car, I’m reminded of 8 weeks of coughing, stopping and starting, and hoarseness from an inflamed, raw throat. And I praise God for His healing and the ability to sing again.

 

May I never take His blessings for granted again …

 

What is one thing you’re praising God for today? One blessing He has given that maybe in the past you never really thought about?

I was listening to the radio one morning this spring and a wife made a comment, “we’ve rubbed off on each other.” She went on to explain how both she and her husband have each changed a little bit, moving from their polar opposite positions to meet “more in the middle.”

That got me thinking … in what way have you “rubbed off on someone else” – whether a friendship, spouse, child, co-worker, or neighbor?

In what way has someone else “rubbed off” on you?

Here’s the biggest question of all. Has the “rubbing off” been positive, negative, or a little bit of both?

 

 

God Protects

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

 

I have been praying for the last several years for God to intervene in a situation in our family’s life. Praying for provision, protection, wisdom, and guidance. I was sharing with a friend during our walk yesterday about how I believe God is getting ready to work in a mighty way and how I’m asking Him to protect us until it happens. She reiterated to me that God hasn’t left us unprotected yet and He’s not going to start now.

Her answer reminded me of a time four years ago, when I was told within 30 days I would be without any income. My job had been phased out. Two days after finding out that news, my husband, our 5-year-old and myself were almost in a car accident with a herd of deer (not one, but 7) that ran across the road mere seconds in front of our car. If my husband hadn’t slowed down to look at a distraction, he and my son would have taken the full impact of 7 deer. God used that example four years ago to remind me if He could protect us physically from a herd of deer without a scratch, He had my employment covered.

Immediately following the walk with my friend, our youngest and I went for our bi-monthly grocery shopping trip. The first store went without incident. However, at the beginning of the second store, I had an encounter with a man that left me feeling extremely uneasy. The Holy Spirit alerted me to the fact his body language, the tone of his voice, his mannerisms and movements were to be paid attention to and I was to end the conversation he drew me into immediately. Without being rude but being abrupt, we walked away from that aisle and without alarming our son, I told him to stick close by as today wasn’t the day to wander or look around. He needed to stay right with me and we needed to hurry. We were in the store maybe 20 more minutes and we saw him staring directly at us at least three other times, in three very different sections, which added to my high alertness.

By now I started praying, asking God what He wanted me to do. It was dark outside, I parked fairly far away, and we were there by ourselves. I felt “relatively” safe inside the store but didn’t want him to see me leave and try to follow us. The Holy Spirit nudged me to check out at the far end of the store, the side away from my car, hoping he wouldn’t see me, and as we’re walking in that direction, one of our dear friends from church was standing in another checkout lane. While I always love seeing him out and about or at church, I was even happier to see him this time. I truly felt God had put him there at that time for us. I debated about telling him about my feeling of being followed, but instead made chitchat before proceeding to head to the other checkout. I was tempted to stand behind him in line, but then he would be heading home and we would be left in the store alone.

Checkout took longer than I planned because I kept having problems, but as always, it was another way to see God’s perfect timing! As we started heading to our car (with me looking all around to see if the man was still watching us), our friend from church was heading to his car too. We had finished at the same time. Only God! We ended up walking out with him and it was only when we were in the parking lot that I let on to him I was scared and God used him to make me feel safe. I thanked him for being there and being used by God that night. As God would have it, we were parked in the same row. We were further down from him, but I felt more comfortable and peaceful now.

We headed to our car, moving quickly and as we were putting our groceries in the backseat, a lady pulled into the spot next to us with a giant van (couldn’t see the store from the other side of the van – God hid us from plain sight) and she was so friendly and outgoing. I offered her my now empty cart, we were able to get in our car shielded, and I drove home knowing it was God once again who used a scary situation in the store to remind me if He could (and would) keep me and our son safe from someone who might have intended to harm us, He definitely was going to protect our family in the situation we’ve been praying about for several years.

I’m so thankful God takes care of His children. And I’m grateful He chooses to show me sometimes the ways He does protect so that I can trust Him to protect while we’re still waiting for the answer to come.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

“Jesus speaks in truths and promises.” Pastor James Sunnock

 

For the past few weeks I’ve been sharing with you about the miracle God gave our family back at Christmastime. You might be reading about what happened and yet be skeptical, asking me, “Was it a miracle, Cheri, or just you working hard to get money to pay the bills?”

 I think, when God wants to show off, He sets the stage so that one can’t argue it was God doing all the work instead of human effort. I, for one, love giving Him the glory, always, and will forever point others to see His power and glory in its finest.

Here are a few reasons why I know it was a miracle God performed and nothing I did:

 

  • When God gave me the choice (Option A or Option B), when I chose to let God handle restoring what was lost, I kept my hands off. I didn’t seek out how to recover what was lost, I didn’t have conversations with people about how to recover my income – the only conversations I had were with my husband (we prayed together), a couple I pray with at my church, my pastor, and two close friends. I also told our kids because I knew God was going to move in a mighty way and when He came through (not if), I wanted the stage set so they knew who got the glory!
  • God brought the restored income to me! I didn’t seek it out. I didn’t ask for more work. I went about my normal agenda and God orchestrated the conversations for me with each and every opportunity. Each and every one.
  • Back in November when I published Rejoicing in Closed Doors – Part II, I referred to some doors God closed pretty tightly. I was confused because I had gone into the meeting knowing He was with me, yet, He still closed doors tightly that I had been waiting patiently to open for 18 months. I chose to praise Him for the closed doors instead of getting disappointed and His answer was “be still and wait,” a familiar verse/theme all year between Him and I. I believe He opened the door with a one-month assignment in December purposefully – His timing is perfect, never early, never late and exactly what I needed. I also believe I wouldn’t have been given that opportunity in December if I hadn’t obeyed and chosen Option B, keeping my hands off.

 

The miracle occurred on Thursday. Three days later, God used that week’s Advent sermon to further encourage me. Our pastor spoke from Mark 4 and 5 about two separate events which were connected. The first event he explained involved the disciples and Jesus in a boat during a storm. The disciples were terrified and woke Jesus up to fix it. He had been sleeping peacefully, fully trusting His Father’s words that He had a destination to go to and God would get Him there. The second event is what happened when they arrived at their destination. They arrived at the region of Gerasenes where they met with a demonic man (who was possessed by many demons) and through another miracle, Jesus was able to free the man who had been held captive by demons for years. Our pastor explained that “we will weather many storms in our lives when we’re on our way to our greatest victories.”

That got me thinking. At the time of this writing, we have received our miracle, which is more than enough for me, but at the beginning of fulfilling it, He gave a glimpse of something more to come – possibly the answer to a several year-old prayer. And I believe at the time you’re reading this, God will have either already answered that prayer (it will have been time) or we will be even closer to the answer and He will have revealed even more of His plan for our family – not because we deserve it, but because we have been obedient and faithful to what He has asked us to do.

Feel free to ask me in the comment section or private message me … and I will be happy to share with you the amazing changes that have occurred in our lives.

And as I always love to say and can never say enough – what He’s willing to do for our family, He’s willing and waiting to do for you. It’s up to you to start the conversation with Him, though. He’s a gentleman and won’t push Himself on you.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

“So be very careful to act exactly as God commands you. Don’t veer off to the right or the left. Walk straight down the road God commands so that you’ll have a good life and live a long time in the land that you’re about to possess.”

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 (The Message)

 

For the past couple weeks I’ve been sharing how God gave our family a choice in the fall of 2018 and while I didn’t feel Him wanting me to choose one more than the other, we chose to step outside our comfort zone, take our hands off, and watch God perform a miracle.

Last time we were together, I shared with you the miracle God blessed us with – not only did He recover what was lost, but He chose to bless us with half as much again as well. And … if that wasn’t enough, He did it three weeks before the loss would hit our family. That could only be explained as a miracle!

All day Thursday and Friday I was sharing with whoever would listen to me how God provided a miracle to our family. And I completely meant every word. Friday night, after working hard, the house was finally quiet and I decided to spend some long-needed extra quiet time with my Father. It was during that time of silence, He reminded me that while He gave back what was lost and then some, there were other blessings He had given as well that weren’t as “showy,” but equally important to acknowledge and give Him thanks.

Below I want to share with you the “extra” blessings God had set up for this miracle months (and even) years prior. I want to use this to encourage you, my friend, even if you think nothing is moving in your situation, God is working behind the scenes. Continue to trust Him, continue to obey what He asks, and continue to praise Him for the answer, before you even see it get answered:

  • Wednesday (the day before the Thursday miracle), as I was doing bills, I continued noticing something interesting which had happened for the previous two paychecks. Almost since the beginning of The Blessed Life series, our finances looked to be growing. Wednesday, when I finished putting everything into the checkbook, I noticed that with the remaining paychecks we would receive in December, if no other money came in, our bills would be covered for December and January. That was the beginning of the miracle and while I acknowledged and thanked God, I didn’t realize there was more.
  • God reminded me on Friday night that He started this miracle in the fall of 2011. He had allowed me to attend a writer’s conference which got me started blogging twice a week. I have faithfully blogged from November 2011 through the present, never missing a week. Those blogs have been turned into devotional books. If I hadn’t been obedient to God years ago when He changed my dream from fiction to nonfiction writing (He gave me back fiction writing this past year, and I will be publishing a six-book series sometime in 2019), I would’ve never had the content I needed to accept this assignment. As I was working on the assignment yesterday, I realized God used my obedience to help make this a miracle and not more hard work.
  • Because of the above detail (having already written much of the assignment), I was able to prepare everything ahead of time and will still get to have a genuine, extended time off of work to spend with my family over the Christmas holiday. Something I have been preparing for since Thanksgiving and we are all looking forward too.
  • While I was still watching, trusting and waiting for God’s miracle to show up, I was also trying to be frugal and prepared for the loss of income. As a result, I had shopped ahead of time for some food for our kids, but had told them they couldn’t eat it until January, when school was back in session. (Don’t be alarmed, they were far from starving, these were the extras and having them go without for a couple weeks wasn’t going to affect their health or growth.) Friday morning one of our children commented “there was nothing good to eat” and proceeded to tell me what they had run out of already, one such item being peanut butter crackers. That is when I was reminded: I had already bought another package of them and they were waiting for January to be opened. But … if God was going to be so generous to replace our income plus half, He would want me to be generous with the peanut butter crackers too. I loved telling our child, “Go get the peanut butter crackers. God made it so you don’t have to wait.”

(I know that last example sounds a little silly – it’s just a bulk package of peanut butter crackers. However, when I was trying to be wise with our spending and knew withholding peanut butter crackers from our kids for two weeks’ wouldn’t stunt their growth but would help with the family budget, I don’t mind sharing that. But I also love sharing how God cares about all the details – even the peanut butter crackers (and lunch choices) of our children. It reminds me of Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the man who was released of a huge debt only to throw a friend in jail because he couldn’t pay a tiny debt. Never do I want to praise God out of one side of my mouth for the blessings He gives our family, only to withhold blessings myself (no matter how small) to my family. It was really nice to be able to give those peanut butter crackers now, instead of waiting until January.)

  • I truly believe there will be future ripple effects that I’m unaware of currently … but God will surprise our family with in the weeks, months, and even possibly years to come.

 

Like I stated above my friends … there have been so many times during our family’s journey over the past five years it has felt like nothing was moving forward. However, God showed me through this miracle that He was always moving, always working in the background, and lining things up for the miracle to occur. I believe there is more to come for our family … that this is just the beginning of the answer we have been praying about and waiting for during the journey God invited us on five plus years ago. Not because we deserve it, but because when offered a choice, we choose obedience. And when we miss the mark? We recalibrate and choose obedience again until we get it right.

I also truly believe God wouldn’t have allowed the phone call to occur on Thursday offering me an assignment, a one month assignment, during the month of December when I needed to recover what was lost, if I had chosen Option A.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”

Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

 

Two weeks ago I wrote What Will I Choose? and ended it with the following statement: “At the time of this writing, I’m peaceful. God hasn’t fully recovered what we have lost, but He’s working and we can see it. By the time you read this, I know, in faith, we will have recovered all that has been lost with the potential of God having given more. Feel free to ask me in the comments for more details and I will be happy to share the way God answered this choice He gave us.”

 This past week God gave our family a miracle. A bona fide, cannot be explained any other way, miracle. It was a direct answer to the choice God asked me to make at the end of the November, right before Thanksgiving. Would I choose option A and fight the person (email) and receive only what was lost … or would I choose option B, let it go, and watch and see how God would provide, possibly more than what was lost? I chose option B … choosing to believe God wanted to work a miracle for our family.

I think at this point I should mention that when I received the email, it was approximately one month before what was lost was going to negatively affect our family. (I also should mention our family is relatively healthy and rarely visits the doctor, but since the day after Thanksgiving, we have had four doctor’s visits in four weeks, so four more bills to add to our normal pile.)

So … humanly speaking, our family either had 30 days to scramble and recover what was lost or watch and see how God would come through. We chose to continue to watch how God was going to come through.

Our week started out normally. It was still approximately 3 weeks before crunch time and the peace I had three weeks prior was still evident. I was watching and waiting, choosing to be frugal and not overspend, but not actively pursuing anything to recover the loss.

Thursday I received a phone call from someone offering me a short-term job. Duration? One month (December 10th through January 10th). I consider this person a friend and to have the opportunity to work for him, knowing from past conversations what the details were and already having my husband’s blessing because of the past conversations, I agreed immediately. We talked through the details and agreed on the price. As soon as he told me what he was willing to offer, I KNEW it was God! Not only was what was lost recovered, but it was recovered plus half again!

I got off the phone and proceeded to share the news with anyone and everyone who would listen. First I told my daughter and her friend (they were caught in the car with me as I had just picked them up from school so they didn’t really have a choice.) Then my husband was next (who I wanted to be first). Then I shared with anyone and everyone who would listen.

Not only did God recover what was lost with half again as much given on top of that, but the assignment I am doing is something I love! I worked all day Friday preparing for it ahead of time, getting everything ready so it will easy to fulfill what I promised, even while taking time off over the holidays to spend with my family.

There is no other way to explain it. God didn’t just recover what was lost. He gave it back and then added another half as much on top as a bonus. Even more than that, though, He further cemented I can trust Him in all situations I will face because He takes care of His children when we obey.

Please come back tomorrow and I will share with you the ripple effect of our obedience and blessings still resulting from this miracle He gave to our family.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019