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“He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer.” Acts 10:2 (The Message)

 

I used to work like I’m irreplaceable in my job.  Long hours, trying to stay ahead of the deadlines (most of the time) and burning out to the point of exhaustion. When I quit one job and transitioned into another (approximately 15 years ago), I was exhausted.  It took me six months before I got the strength up to do more than work my new job and fall into bed at night.

I used to live the rest of my life as though I was replaceable.  Just one more hour of work… I’ll volunteer in my kid’s classroom “next year”… I can read them a story tomorrow… Exercise? I can start next month when “things slow down.”

God started working a heart change in my life a few years ago.  I think it started when I was given notice my job was being eliminated three weeks from that day. I realized that I was definitely replaceable at work… and quickly too.  God didn’t stop there.  He blessed our family that summer with a wonderful vacation with my sister and her family and then blessed me with another vacation with my extended family and I found out soon enough I was definitely irreplaceable to those who truly matter.

While God instructs us in His Word that we should work with excellence for others as though we’re working directly for Him, that type of work takes time. God also wants us to make sure we’re prioritizing our time with activities which are the best fit for our family, our lives and our personalities. Our best “yeses” means not filling up with “almost the best,” which leaves no time for the important things.

Last year, God continued this lesson for me by giving me an invitation.  He invited me to put down my writing (except for my twice weekly blog posts) and spend more time with my family.  He never promised that He would give me my writing back… and He didn’t tell me ahead of time the other plans He had for our family, just a simple invitation.  Take the time to make memories with your family now.

Our family had started down my “writing path” approximately 5 years prior and it had been a busy five years.  I was happy to take on that invitation as I love spending time with my family, although there was a part of me wondering if God was asking me to give up writing altogether.  That made me sad, I’ll be honest, but I realized if that was truly what He was asking, I trusted God enough to 1) Obey and enjoy the time with my family and 2) If He truly was closing this door, He had another “best” door waiting to open for us.

As a result, I was able to walk away from the computer more, got re-involved with relaxing with my family at night, reconnecting with TV shows, spending time outside, family movie nights, silly excursions and just being actively engaged in their lives. God also invited me to volunteer in one child’s class twice a month, volunteer for concession stand periodically, and get more involved in church ministry.

As 2016 wound down and 2017 started up, God did indeed give me back my writing and then some.  I find myself busier than usual again; but the lesson I learned last year stuck.  I make more boundaries in the areas where I’m replaceable.  Instead of just continuing to serve in areas “where I’ve always served” or do because I’ve always done, God has invited me to move away from certain areas that are great activities but not the best fit for our family at this time.  Family time is held more sacred and we have the fun of last year’s memories to reminisce about and hold us together on the days that are tougher.

There are still days where work gets the better parts of me and family suffers and other days where work is put to the side and family is focused on.  But God showed me in such a significant way that while I may think I’m replaceable most places, there are a few places where I’m the only “me” and I would be missed greatly if I wasn’t around anymore.  Those are the places I want to focus on because those are the people who matter the most.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“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 16:24-26 (The Message)

Sometimes life can only be described as hard.  Sometimes it’s through no choice of my own – events happen and I need to deal with them. Sometimes its due to choices I’ve made and it’s called natural consequences.  And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

This past weekend life culminated that for me. I would say the majority of the “hard” I was dealing with was a result of choices I’d been making for a few months and it finally got to the place where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The issues screaming at me, when I looked closer, were really just symptoms and not the real problem. The real problem was I needed to completely surrender to God.

He warned me.  Yes, my Heavenly Father used many different methods the week prior as well as during the weekend to warn me, in a loving way, I was on a slippery slope.  I had a choice to make… completely surrender to His ways even though selfishly I didn’t want to, keeping the lines of communication open with Him or selfishly hold onto my desires and be left to go it alone.

Isn’t that similar to how it is for those of us who are parents, especially of teenagers or young adults? Sometimes we see them start to slide down a slippery slope.  Sometimes they will come to us for advice and the tragedy is averted.  Other times, we wait close by, ready to help and pray a lot.

I believe it’s similar with God. He allows us free will.  He gives us guidelines from His Word on how to live an abundant life, one in which He can freely bless us… but He still allows us to make our own choice – one in which we allow God’s blessings access to our lives by living obediently or one in which we block His blessings due to our disobedience.

While outwardly others may not have known I was sinning that weekend… I was.  While I didn’t sin in the world’s eyes, I sinned in God’s eyes.  I held on to pride, stubbornness and wanting to do things my way instead of surrendering the first time God invited me to get off the slope and back onto firm ground.  It took two-and-a-half days.  Then I surrendered fully.  Completely.  I chose God’s way.  I chose to be selfless and specifically outlined to God the blessings I wanted… they were for someone else and I, in essence, died to myself and my desires.  I even went so far as to tell God I would completely surrender my wants in a specific area if He would choose to bless another instead.  And I meant it. That was the difference.  They weren’t just words at this point… they were words backed by action.

That’s not how our Heavenly Father works though.  When I completely surrendered, He allowed us both to be blessed.  In ways that I wouldn’t have imagined.  And I know it was Him because the sermon we listened to a few hours later was confirmation in my heart I’d pleased my Father.

You know what’s pathetic? I wanted God’s will the whole time… but on my terms.  Just as our household isn’t one where the kids obey on their terms, God knows it’s not healthy to allow that attitude between Himself and His children. He knew in order for me to die further to myself, I had to just go through it… and when I came out the other side, He met me there with His love.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

Not My Body

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

 When I gave my life to Christ, I gave up control of myself – my wishes, my dreams, my soul and my body for Him to change, correct and help me be the best version of me, in His likeness, that I could be.

When I got married, I gave up the right to consider my body my own.  It now belongs to my husband as much as to me and I have a responsibility to use it as a helpmate for him.  Spiritually – Praying for him daily, submitting to his authority, sharing insights from God’s word and sharing with him the ways God talks to me about our family.  Emotionally – Encouraging him, respecting and honoring him at home when we interact with each other, in front of our children and extended family and in the community.  Physically – The sexual element of my body belonging to him as his body belongs to me as God united us together under the covenant of marriage; but also looking for ways to ease his burdens around the house as well as offering to run errands, keeping things picked up – whatever specific way that speaks love to him directly.

When I chose to be a mother, I gave up the right to consider my body as my own.  From the time we chose to conceive, my body was built for two. I had a responsibility to take care of it so that I could carry our little ones for nine months as safely as possible.  All four of our children were planned by God and I did what I could to ensure a safe delivery.  Three of the four were delivered safely here while one went directly from my womb to the arms of Jesus.

Once I gave birth, my body still isn’t my own.  I have a responsibility to exercise, make good food choices, get enough sleep, keep my stress level down to a minimum, and try and maintain balance not just because I’m a role model for those God has blessed me to raise, but because I want to be the best version of myself I can be so I can enjoy all aspects of motherhood instead of being too tired and needing to sit on the sidelines. Then, if God so chooses, there will be grandchildren to stay healthy for, and starting from a foundation of health now will make that goal much easier in the future.

When I chose to be a Christ follower, I chose to serve my Heavenly Father and once again my body isn’t mine.  I need to stay spiritually healthy, physically healthy and emotionally healthy so that when God gives me an assignment, I’m available and able to fulfill it.  Whether it’s working with babies at church every week or sitting at a computer writing or encouraging women and praying with them – each task that God gives me requires emotional, physical and spiritual energy that needs to continually be replaced.

My body isn’t my own… and I’m glad.  I love being a Christ follower, a wife, a mother and someone who serves her Heavenly Father.  It’s a lot easier to live a life of service to Him and to those He has blessed me with when I am spiritually filled up, have physical energy and emotional reserves.  Nope, my body isn’t my own and that’s a blessing!

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

Available Now:

Spoken from the Heart:
Walking in Freedom

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AND

Spoken from the Heart:

Living a Life of Obedience

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EBook: http://amzn.to/2oyM8jY

Just in time for Easter…

 

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” Psalm 47:1 (NIV)

 

God knew what He was doing when He created our family as one where I needed to work.  He knew that He created me as a nurturer, a caregiver to the nth degree. If you’re reading this, you might be chuckling right now because my household doesn’t look like the pages of Good Housekeeping or Martha Stewart (or whatever is the standard one measures herself against these days).  Our house is very lived in.  I referred to that issue in my post, Welcome to Our Version of Chaos.

However, back to how God created our family perfectly for us.  When our oldest two were much younger, I ran a daycare out of our home while I studied medical transcription.  I had a household of children six and under and loved it.  However, because I wasn’t into slave labor and the children under my care were treated like family without the chores attached, I didn’t think it was fair to make my own kids do chores either.  I was able to get the bulk of things done around the house during the week which left our weekends and evenings for family togetherness.  My children knew how to put away toys, but I didn’t make them clean, do laundry, etc.

Even after I shifted from daycare to medical transcription full time, with only two kids (one and then eventually both in school), I was still able to maintain the house during “working hours” and our evenings and weekends were free for family fun or I would catch up on work after everyone was in bed.  It worked out well.

By the time the third child arrived, along with more work, I started to need help.  Our oldest two were definitely capable of helping out around the house.  Fast forward to present day when we have two teenagers and an elementary school child and they do the brunt of the work while I juggle two jobs, volunteering at school regularly, serving at our church, etc.  And I realized that’s a good thing.  It’s not free labor… it’s helping them own responsibility and learn satisfaction from a job well done.

That point was driven home to me several times in the last few weeks.  The time was when I observed one of our children rescue a stuffed animal from our dog, get out the sewing kit and fix said stuffed animal before the owner of the animal even knew surgery was required.

The second time was when I brought our youngest home from school and he noticed his bird feeder was empty.  “Please, Mom, can I fill it before Dad gets home?  I know how – I just need you to help me reach it.”

Who can resist that?

After handing it to him, I walked away to feed the bearded dragon and start supper, knowing full well he was quite capable of the task.  Five minutes later, he was upset with himself because he had spilled birdseed everywhere in the house.  Now, I’m sad to say that my response, even a month ago would’ve been to see the mess and “one more thing I need to clean up” over the heart behind the child who created the mess.  Instead, though, God allowed me to see it for what it was… a learning experience.

He had the opportunity to learn from me how to pick up the majority of the mess and then he got a lesson from a sibling in the joy of running the vacuum.

Most importantly, I got a chance to see how blessed I am to work and how the benefits ripple throughout the family.  I get the privilege of working from home so I don’t miss those moments that will never come back.  My kids get the benefit of learning important skills they’ll take with them when they eventually leave our house.  And they get the benefit of teaching those skills to each other as well as helping each other out “just because.”

In order to learn, we need to be able to make mistakes.  And, sometimes, that means a little (or a lot of) birdseed gets spilled.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

Available Now:

Spoken from the Heart:
Walking in Freedom

FREE EBOOK ON MONDAY, APRIL 17th AND TUESDAY, APRIL 18th

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pBk8d9

AND

Spoken from the Heart:

Living a Life of Obedience

Paperback : http://amzn.to/2pioVRk

EBook: http://amzn.to/2oyM8jY

Just in time for Easter…

 

Available Now:

Spoken from the Heart:
Walking in Freedom

FREE EBOOK ON MONDAY, APRIL 17th AND TUESDAY, APRIL 18th

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pBk8d9

AND

Spoken from the Heart:

Living a Life of Obedience

Paperback : http://amzn.to/2pioVRk

EBook: http://amzn.to/2oyM8jY

Just in time for Easter…