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Do you have any goals (not New Year’s Resolutions) as you begin 2020?

I have a few traditions I like to participate in at the different “firsts” that naturally occur in our household: the first day back to school in January, the first day (week) of summer break, and the first day of a new school year.

I ask God a few questions and wait for His answer. Sometimes we talk about these things before the previous year is over; sometimes we talk about them the whole month of January – sometimes we start talking during the previous year and continue the conversation throughout January.

I like to ask God the following:

  • Do You have a specific word for the year You want me to have?
  • Do You want me to fast, for a specific period of time, and what am I giving up?
  • What projects do You want me to work on this year?
  • What Bible reading plan do You want me to participate in this year?

 

This year I want to add a few more questions to the list:

 

  • What goals do You want me to work on personally?
  • Do You have any family goals for us this year?
  • Do You have any topics You want me to learn more about and practice?

What about you? Do you have any questions you want to ask God about for the upcoming year?

Sharing my heart …

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  I feel very blessed because most holidays are celebrated for one day, but Christmas extends from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day for most families, including too much food, too many presents and hopefully lots of time spent with family, lots of laughter, and the making of shared memories.

 

As much as I enjoy all of the above, some of it too much, that is not what Christmas itself really means to me. I would like to take today, a few days after Christmas, to share a glimpse into my heart.

Christmas means to me what it does because of whom I choose to have a relationship with. I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. I consider myself blessed to have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe. I have peace knowing whatever good things happen to me are because of blessings He gives. I have faith knowing nothing will happen He doesn’t already know about and whenever heartache or sadness does occur, He has the ability to help me grow and mature and then to possibly bless others through that pain. I can walk with confidence in life knowing that I have a relationship with the One who is in charge of the world – how’s that for being friends with someone who has a lot of power?

 

A lot of people blame God for all the bad things that happen in life, but God is a God of love. Where there is the opposite of love, that is who should correctly get the blame for the evil in this world. God did not design the world to be full of evil, but He also gave free will which allowed sin to enter into the picture.

 

One of the many amazing and wonderful things about God is He doesn’t show favoritism. As intimately as He cares about me and my love of wildflowers, hikes in the woods, and spending time with my family, He also cares about you and your interests, passions, and desires. The incredible part is He is waiting and willing and wanting to have that personal relationship with you also. As I’ve said before, He is a true gentleman and will not push Himself on anyone. He is waiting for that invitation from you to share in that personal relationship.

 

So, as you continue celebrating during this Christmas season, hopefully with lots of family traditions, laughter, fun, and probably too much food, I have one question for you…Are you celebrating a ritual or are you ready for a relationship?

 

Thank you for letting me share a little bit of my heart with you today.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

 

God Loves …

One winter, while my “Sister in Christ” (SiC) and I were still getting to know each other, I went through a very dark season. I felt hopeless and as though I was the expendible one to God in all the scenarios in my life. It felt as though He was blessing others in their lives, but I was the scapegoat, the one who was forgotten.

I’m ashamed now to admit those feelings, fully knowing God doesn’t treat any of His children that way; but at the time, those were my feelings and I was struggling.

However, I hadn’t shared those feelings at the time with anyone, even my Sister in Christ because saying them out loud sounded foolish, even to my ears.

But God … He revealed to my SiC how I needed extra encouragement and then proceeded to tell her how He wanted her to show me how He (and she) loved me.

He started with a Bible verse a day for the whole month of December. It took me probably half of the month before I realized when she told me “Abba wanted me to share this with you,” she really meant Abba told her to send me that particular verse that particular day. By the time I understand it, I got excited to see what the verse would be the next day and the next day and the next … because they were always relevant to what was happening on those particular days.

Next He encouraged my SiC to send our family a HUGE box of presents for Christmas. There were all kinds of goodies in there, including a 24-count box of coconut mocha K-cups. While that might seem like an ordinary present to some, it was God’s way of showing me I mattered to Him. Back in July, I had seen this particular flavor of coffee at our local library, but didn’t feel worthy (or justified) spending 75 cents to try it.

I prayed during the summer, telling God if He wanted me to have this coffee, He would have to supply it. He not only supplied one cup for me to try, but 24 cups! It is one of my absolute favorite flavors to this day, probably because of Who introduced me to it!

Have you ever been that type of friend to another? Listening to God’s nudges and then walking in obedience to encourage, support, or pray for someone?

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

 

Adopted …

A few weeks ago I was reading my daily Bible devotions and came across Matthew 1. I normally skip through the genealogies, but this particular morning, I decided to sit and savor the order of people who form the lineage of Jesus Christ.

 

As I was reading, I noticed a few things:  God mentions a few women in the chronology, not many but a few. Some He mentions by name, others He refers to as “the wife of…” I mention that because if God wants to highlight certain people, He will, regardless of what’s popular in society.

 

The other thing that struck me as I was reading was that the lineage displayed is through the line of Joseph. I’m not a Biblical scholar and I’m sure there is a very valid reason for that lineage being highlighted, but it brought out a truth to me that I believe God wanted me to grasp.

Joseph was Jesus’ step father. God was Jesus’ father. Mary was Jesus’ biological mother. He grew inside her, was half man/half God so half of his biological makeup had Mary’s DNA coursing through it – not Joseph. Joseph was a step dad. Yet, God saw fit to spend 16 verses talking about the lineage of Joseph that Jesus was born into. He didn’t spend that amount of time on Mary’s lineage, Jesus’ biological lineage, but instead on the husband of the family, the step dad.

 

Jesus was adopted. We are adopted. I am not Jewish. According to the Bible, I am a Gentile. I had to be adopted into God’s family in order to become His daughter. God loves me as much as His biological children, my Jewish sisters and brothers. God didn’t offer a distinction in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1, and He doesn’t distinguish between me and His chosen people. If we believe in Jesus Christ, confess our sins, and ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives, we have assurance that we’re going to Heaven.

 

What a wonderful truth to think about on Christmas Eve, the day before we celebrate Christ’s birthday. God doesn’t care if we’re adopted or biological. He wants us all to be part of His family and offered the best way for that to happen. He let go of His Son for 33 years, showing us a glimpse of what a real relationship with Him would look like and inviting everyone to accept His free gift.

 

Merry Christmas to all my friends and family! May you all know the love God has for us – whether adopted or biological. God loves you!

 

If you don’t know what that love feels like for yourself, feel free to contact me at clSwalwell99@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to talk to you about it further.  He wants us all to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas together – as one big family!

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

Pizza and puzzles

My SiC, who is a little further ahead of me in the world of parenting, remembers full well how much teenagers can eat (and love to eat). One afternoon when we were given the gift of talking after praying, I was venting about a particular situation where I was feeling frustrated. Her way of supporting me? A gift certificate to Papa Johns with enough pizza to go around and then some!

Other times she has bought me dinner from two states away so I didn’t have to cook after a particularly busy and demanding day.

She also loves to send me coffee “just because” (always flavors Abba picks out!) or treats for my husband and our kids so they know she is thinking about them too!

One particular Christmas I was looking forward to a much needed and long overdue break from work (a full two weeks to relax and spend quality time with my family). I was thinking (but didn’t say anything to anyone) about how much fun it would be to use our table to put together a big puzzle with whatever kids wanted to join me.

Two days later, a 1000 piece puzzle of Noah’s Ark arrived in the mail – an early Christmas present! That Christmas was so much fun and every time I see that puzzle I’m reminded of someone (and Someone) who loves me and my family!

Friendship is about sharing life together … from pizza to puzzles and everything in between.

Is there someone in your life you could give the gift of your time, financial (or cooking) support, or maybe an extra hand around their house?

Has someone done that for you?

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

Christmas Wrapping …

If your family is anything like mine, there is a reason for which wrapping paper is used for each person. Everyone gets their own and it usually coincides with that person’s personality. My mom gets poinsettias as she loves flowers, my dad gets Santa Claus paper as he loves to “help out the Big Guy,” and my nephew gets something to do with sports.

 

Those similarities and differences spill over to each family member also. Whenever my extended family gets together, we love to sit around talking about how my niece is just like me and my son shows traits of my sister, and how even my adopted nephew takes after his grandmother at times, despite no true biology (goes to show nurture is as important as nature).

Sometimes the differences can seem huge and tensions can flare. Your family is used to rising at 5:00 a.m. and rolling into bed again around 8:00 p.m. Your brother’s family rolls out of bed around noon and stays up past midnight. The patriarchs of the family want to eat three square meals a day but you are lucky to be hungry once or twice only. The babies need quiet and consistent naptimes. Your aunt likes things organized and you are more carefree with how you keep your house.

 

So, how, especially around the holidays, do you make it all work? How do you keep tempers from flaring and harsh words from ruining not only family togetherness but possibly lifelong relationships?

 

My personal opinion is that if you can keep the real reason for getting together in the forefront of your mind, it helps. What is more important – a spotless house or a Dicecapades tournament (if you have never played this game, it is hilarious, especially with a large group of people.)? Getting a chance to stay up late and getting a glimpse into your sister’s heart again or getting the allotted eight hours of sleep you usually need? Most little ones (there are always exceptions) can usually adapt to a different schedule temporarily also without too many meltdowns.

 

When family togetherness occurs this year, I issue you a challenge. Why not be the first one to make relationships the priority this year centered around an environment of fun? You might be surprised. If you take time to invest in your family, digging a little bit deeper into their personal lives, taking time to talk about more than just surface topics, you might be surprised that what you leave with this year is more than a store bought present. Instead, you might leave with a better understanding of why your brother, sister, aunt, grandmother reacts or acts a certain way. You might have a better understanding of why your brother has always hated spiders, you might learn what exactly childhood was like for your parents and your kids might gain a better appreciation for why Grandma and Grandpa spoil them (or withhold treats and presents).

 

I admit – I struggle sometimes in this area (because I really like my sleep and I’ve been running full speed ahead for the past decade) but I want to make relationships a priority this year … because sleep is overrated and I can always try and catch up in January. Who knows? We might have another polar vortex!

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

About the Book

Book:  In the Cradle Lies

Author: Olivia Newport

Genre: Christian Fiction

Release Date: November, 2019

Book 2 in the Tree of Life Series: A Father-Daughter Genealogy Team Link Faith Journeys on Family Trees

On a solo ski vacation in Canyon Mines, Colorado, Tucker has a love-hate relationship with his wealth, spending indiscriminately while skiing fearlessly and preparing to conquer the overgrown slope of Hidden Run, a dangerous run not attempted in decades. As genealogist Jillian tries to uncover enough of Tucker’s family tree to understand his charming nature but reckless resolve, Jillian’s equally charming father, Nolan, cajoles Tucker into giving him ski lessons to get him talking about the suspicious circumstances surrounding his grandfather’s life in St. Louis in the 1930s.

On the surface, Tucker’s family’s history seems too perfect. The secret may lie in the sealed envelope Tucker carries with him at all times—even on the ski slope. When no one can find Tucker to tell him the fiancée he never mentioned turned up in Canyon Mines, they realize he must be off attempting to ski Hidden Run alone in a snowstorm. And they may be too late.

In the Cradle Lies is the second book in the Tree of Life series by Olivia Newport. You’ll want to return to the lovely Colorado mountain town of Canyon Mines again and again to explore and celebrate unforgettable family stories that will inspire you to connect with your own family histories and unique faith journeys.

 

Click here to get your copy!

My Review:

It was really nice continuing this journey in the Tree of Life Series. The characters are well-developed, the plotlines are intriguing and kept me reading and it’s nice to know it’s a series so that we can continue to return to the Colorado mountain town of Canyon Mines. Anyone and everyone who enjoys historical Christian fiction and/or genealogical books or books about people’s past will absolutely love this book – delving into the character’s past as well as enjoying a great story about their present. The characters draw you in and make you feel a part of the family, the community.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit but was not under any obligation to write a review. All opinions are strictly mine.

 

About the Author

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twenty something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak.

 

More from Olivia

True confession. I live in Colorado and don’t ski.

In the Cradle Lies includes several references to “How can you live in the Colorado mountains and not ski?” Jillian, a main character in the Tree of Life series, has lived in the mountain town of Canyon Mines since she was two, and by the time she was eight she knew she didn’t want to ski.

I grew up in Illinois, and while my high school had a ski club and somehow found places to ski (I’m not sure where; um, not exactly mountain territory), I was sure I would break something. Arriving in Colorado in my forties did not persuade me to take up skiing at that age. I live at the base of Pikes Peak, not in the mountains like Jillian. I do love the views!

But one of the fun things about being a writer is learning a lot about things you know little about. Enter Google and YouTube. And more YouTube. And … you get the drift.

Some quick facts about Colorado skiing to help get you in the mood for In the Cradle Lies:

  • Colorado typically leads the country in “skier days”—days of skiing purchased in ski areas.
  • Actually, most people in the state don’t ski. By a large margin. Like 90 percent. (So I feel better and so does Jillian.)
  • People visiting the state to ski or snowboard are important to our economy. (So thank you!)
  • Colorado has hosted about 175 ski areas since it became a state in 1876. Today, we have only about 30 operating resorts—so there are lots of dormant, lost, and hidden runs like the one in my story.

I hope you’ll check out In the Cradle Lies—and find out why Tucker came from St. Louis to Canyon Mines to ski an abandoned run that put his life at risk.

 

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

 

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, December 3

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 3

Inklings and notions, December 4

Daysong Reflections, December 4

Genesis 5020, December 5

Godly Book Reviews, December 5

Just the Write Escape, December 6

Pause for Tales, December 7

For Him and My Family, December 7

For the Love of Literature, December 8

Mary Hake, December 8

Betti Mace, December 9

Bigreadersite, December 9

A Baker’s Perspective, December 10

Hallie Reads, December 10

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 11

Spoken from the Heart, December 11

Older & Smarter?, December 12

Texas Book-aholic , December 13

Blogging With Carol, December 13

janicesbookreviews, December 14

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 14

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 15

A Reader’s Brain, December 16

With a Joyful Noise, December 16

 

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a free copy of In the Cradle Lies!!

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/f1ba/in-the-cradle-lies-celebration-tour-giveaway