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ABOUT THE BOOK:

“…It is the price you pay for choosing to be a cop. Your brother’s life…”

Those words haunt her dreams, and her waking moments. LAPD officer, Aurora Kavvan cannot rest until she finds her brothers killer. Digging into the past always brings back unpleasant things: memories, guilt…the hit man. Now she is in a race against time to find the murderer before he finds her.

“Kill her. I don’t care how, and I don’t care where, but I want her dead now!”

Someone was trying to kill his dead partner’s sister. FBI agent, Jordan Reiley will stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves. Even if it means going against her wishes; putting himself between her and the man who murdered her brother.

Will God keep them alive long enough for them to find the truth?

 

Click here to purchase your copy of Shadows from the Past

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ashley Dawn was born and raised in rural Arkansas where she developed her love for writing while helping in her parent’s office. She graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas but is currently working as a legal assistant.

Ashley has been writing professionally for the past twelve years and has three published books. Her Shadows Series include Shadows from the Past, Shadows of Suspicion, Shadows of Pain, and Shadows of Deception. She is currently working on multiple projects including the fifth in her ‘Shadows’ series entitled “Shadows in Black and White” and also a standalone suspense titled ‘One of Their Own’. She and her family make their home in Texas.

 

You can find the author on the following social media:

www.facebook.com/authorashleydawn

www.ashleydawn-author.com

https://twitter.com/authoradawn

 

MY REVIEW:

Shadows from the Past (Book one of the Shadows Series) by Ashley Dawn was filled with action from the first page through the last. The suspense was palpable and as this is only the first in the series, we have more time to enjoy the characters we grew to love. While this book had a lot of suspense, action and even some humor, the spiritual struggles were real as well. They showed how Aurora worked through issues she has struggled with from a spiritual level, much like it takes years at times for many Christ followers to work through issues with our Heavenly Father. The spiritual element was nicely woven throughout – at times the main focus of the action.

This was a new author to me and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience her writing. Like I said, this is the first book in a series so there is plenty of time to sit and enjoy this author’s style, tone, development of characters, plots and subplots.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via CelebrateLit. A favorable review was not required and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”

Genesis 22:15-18 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about the excitement I had driving to a leadership training at my church to learn how to lead a life group God invited me to write a year earlier. He gently reminded me of how far He has brought me in five short years since we first started attending our church and making it our home.

I attended the meeting and not two hours later, while driving home, the enemy tried to derail my enthusiasm. He tried to get me to question whether or not I really should be co-teaching.

During the meeting, I found out what day of the week the life groups normally are held on. It was only then I remembered the commitment our family has on Wednesdays in the spring – an activity that our youngest gets really excited about and trains for all year. In addition, this spring, our teenager decided to go out for a sport and we still didn’t know what day or days of the week those games would fall on.

Satan started a conversation with me while I was driving: “Maybe this isn’t the right time for you to lead a group. You are a mom and have responsibilities – maybe you need to wait until your children are grown before attempting this.”

 “God tells you to keep family a priority. You could cause irreparable emotional damage to your children if you choose church over them. Do you really want to do that?”

 “Maybe you didn’t hear God correctly. Maybe you aren’t supposed to co-lead a group. Who are you?”

 While the enemy definitely got my mind thinking and my mom guilt working, I decided to pray then and there. I told God I loved Him first, over every other area of my life. I told Him I believed He wanted me to do this and I told Him I trusted Him with the schedule. I told Him it would hurt if I had to miss my kids’ activities this spring but I also knew that didn’t make me a bad mom. They had a dad who was involved and would again, “keep the house running smoothly.”

I got home and talked to my husband first. When I told him about the possible conflict, he seemed unconcerned. This wasn’t an emergency. I talked to our youngest next, thinking surely he would object if I wasn’t able to watch him participate in his once yearly race. His response went something like this: “You’ll be missed, Mom, but Dad will be there, right? That’s okay then.” And our other child still didn’t know what night of the week the games fell, so wasn’t worried either.

The next morning God confirmed my conversation with Him the night before through a devotional. It talked about Abraham being given the test to give up his son or not (did he love Isaac more than God Himself?) and then God giving him back Isaac when Abraham proved he loved God more.

It was then I realized – I have always loved my family fiercely. They all know how much I love them and I was being invited to show God through this choice whether or not I would prove through my actions that I did indeed love Him more.

I chose God. I turned in my application two days later, willing to commit to 8 weeks no matter what day of the week the life group fell on. I gave the decision to God. Then I waited, completely surrendered to God’s will.

Three days later, I received a phone call from the life group pastor letting me know my group was approved, details about the next steps and the day/time the group would be held. It was on the only day of the week that none of my children had any spring activities. God gave me the joy of co-leading a life group AND the joy of sharing the experiences with my kids too.

Our God is so good! One of many things I’ve learned in the past five years is how much He loves us. He doesn’t give us choices to punish us. Even choices that seem so hard – giving up addictions, choosing Him over other people or activities or jobs or (fill in the blank) aren’t given to punish us. He invites us to make choices because He knows what’s best for our lives, and He knows that by putting Him first, our lives will be the best version possible. He also knows we have to willingly give our lives, all of our lives, over to Him in order for Him to be able to fully work and bring about the blessings He wants to give to each of His children.

God is amazing and He gets all the glory. He worked out my schedule so well before the life groups even started and then handpicked the perfect group of individuals to minister to for eight weeks as well.

#Caring for the Caregiver

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

“So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 (The Message)

 

In January 2017, while I was fasting at the beginning of the year, God invited me to write a Bible study about caregiving. For the first time ever, He downloaded the whole outline of a book to me in about 20 minutes. I was excited to see what God wanted to do with this project and got started right away. I stalled somewhere around the middle of the summer, but God lovingly re-invited me to finish the study and by the end of August, it was written. It took a few more months for the cover art, editing and formatting, but by mid-December, it was published.

This past spring, I found myself driving to my church for a life group leadership meeting because I was interested in leading a group using the book I had written, Caring for the Caregiver. I couldn’t contain my excitement at possibly having a chance to encourage others using this material.

While at a stoplight, God reminded me of how far I’ve come in my journey learning how to trust Him. Approximately five years ago, our Heavenly Father started stirring in my husband and my heart that it was time to leave our then current church and find a new church home. We didn’t know where to go, so started trying different churches, knowing God would make it known where He wanted us.

The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend found us at Victory Life Church. They announced they were getting ready to begin their summer life groups and invited people to check out what was being offered after the service. I was curious so I went and got a pamphlet, excited to see Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer was one of the choices. That was significant because for the past 18 months, God had been inviting and re-inviting and re re-inviting me to read that book. I had checked it out at the library with good intentions, keeping it for three months and then returning it unopened. I decided, “Okay, that would make a great Christmas present,” so I asked my mother-in-law to buy it for me, thinking if I own it, I will surely read it. In her loving kindness, she not only bought me the book but also the workbook! I still hadn’t read it. It was now May, five months later, and I told God, “Okay, I will sign up for the class.”

I talked with my husband, who wholeheartedly supported me attending, agreeing to take care of things at home on the nights I would be gone. I signed up and was ready to begin.

I believe one of the reasons God persisted with His invitation to me about the book was because He knew how much fear gripped me, and how much it influenced everything I did in life (or didn’t do). The first week of the life group I ended up not even attending. There was a thunderstorm and I wasn’t going to be caught in a storm in a building with people I didn’t know instead of at safely surrounded at home by my family. I remember being so disappointed in myself that night for giving in to the fear, the very thing I was supposed to attend the class to learn how to eliminate from my life.

God has quite the sense of humor because it was that memory He reminded me of as I sat at the stoplight, driving to the same church five years later barely able to contain my excitement at not just attending a life group, but leading one!

Five years. God has chosen to free me from so many areas of bondage in five short years. Fear? God is teaching me fear is a sin and has no place in my life, no matter the circumstances. I choose to trust Him and walk in obedience when and where He tells me to go. Fear of winter driving? Gone. Depression? Gone. Holiday depression? Gone. Anxiety/panic attacks? Haven’t had a panic attack since before Thanksgiving. I still get anxious sometimes, but God has given me the tools to work through that and peace quickly takes its place. Food addiction? Still a work in progress, but God keeps working with me on this one.

Come back next time as I share the Isaac God invited me to lay down this time.

#SFTH: Journey from Fear to Faith

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4 (The Message)

 

A friend and I were talking about forgiveness. She was talking about her frustration with herself. She had chosen to forgive someone, thought she had forgiven him/her, and yet, thoughts and conversations kept coming to mind at random times and she was finding it hard to “let go”.

It was easy for me to empathize with her because I struggle in those same areas. I believe God gave me the following analogy to help encourage her and maybe it will encourage you as well, if you are dealing with the struggle of forgiving someone in your life, and truly releasing the hurt once and for all.

First and foremost, I need to make the decision to forgive. That is a choice I make with my head, I say with my mouth and eventually it makes it way down to my heart. After that decision has been followed through with comes the hard part – walking that forgiveness out on a daily basis. I believe the degree to which a person struggles in this area depends upon the degree of hurt that has been (or continues to be) experienced.

Think of the act of complete forgiveness from the perspective of being burned. This past school year I was making muffins that had hot jelly in them. I was hurrying to get them plated and accidentally touched the hot jelly with my finger. The sting was so severe (hot jelly sticks to one’s finger),and my automatic response was to “put my finger in my mouth to cool it down.” However, I missed my mouth and ended up with jelly sticking to the space above my upper lip but below my nose. I ended up with blisters on my finger and on my upper lip for over a week because the degree of the burn inflicted that type of injury. These are the types of offenses that hurt, but are one-time offenses and once they are “healed,” the pain is over. It is done.

However, second-, third- or fourth-degree burns have a much longer healing process. Approximately five years ago I traveled to New Jersey with my family and suffered third- or fourth-degree burns from sunbathing. It was so severe I couldn’t stand to have any clothing covering it up and I developed blisters that lasted several weeks. The rest of the summer, that area of skin remained pink and I couldn’t risk exposing it to the sun at all. Years later, it still burns quicker than any other area of my skin and I have to be ultracareful to protect it to a greater degree than the rest of my body because the damage that was done in the past still has residual effects.

It is similar with hurts that cut deep, sting on contact, continue to burn after the exposure has been removed and remain sensitive to continual exposure. These hurts can be forgiven and completely healed (it’s a choice as stated above) but run the risk of being re-burned if re-exposed to the same heat (hurtful situations).

While I believe a person can forgive each degree of “burn” they receive, some burns (hurts) need more attention to stay forgiven. If a person is continually re-exposed to the hurtful situation, it might be time to talk to a professional about putting up healthy boundaries for that sensitive area in his/her life.

The degree of the hurt (burn) doesn’t determine whether or not one can choose to forgive. God commands us to forgive others of all offenses. Walking out that forgiveness is sometimes a daily choice with the burns that are more severe than those that only scratch the surface. My friend’s frustration above (as well as my own) wasn’t about not wanting to forgive, it was more about continuing to choose to ignore the promptings of the enemy to revisit the hurts and instead choose to train our thoughts on praising God, not focusing on past hurts.

The less we focus on the burn and the more we focus on God’s blessings, the faster the burns will heal with less residual sensitivity. Healthy boundaries are important as well – and sometimes talking to a Christian professional about how to put healthy boundaries in place helps to give the burn time to heal once and for all.

#degreeofburn           #SpokenfromtheHeart       #forgivessnessisachoice

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

“In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” Romans 12:4-6 (The Message)

 

There is a popular song on the radio right now talking about how it’s okay to dream about making a big imprint in this world in Jesus’ name, but don’t let one’s vision for “greatness” overshadow the difference we can make in the here and now today. Raising our children, pastoring a smaller church instead of a megachurch, serving in a smaller, unseen role instead of out on stage – all of these acts of service matter in the lives that are touched and all are seen by God as great, even if the audience that receives the blessing is “small”.

That song came on the radio while driving home on our road trip and our eight-year-old and I started talking about it. I casually mentioned how much I love the song and so we talked about how working in the background was just as important as working out in front.

I had just finished a book over the weekend about newly-married couples and the internal struggle of the wife who was staying behind for six weeks with their 2-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son while her husband went and “built a well.” His “service” seemed much bigger in comparison to hers – she was keeping little ones alive while he was helping to supply fresh water to an entire community. Yet, in God’s eyes, when done with the right attitude, both acts of service were equal. He was equally pleased.

 

God has planted some really big dreams into my heart. In my eyes anyway, they are huge and impossible without His guidance. I’m slowly and steadily working toward the goal of accomplishing whatever God wants me to do in His name. However, God reminded me on this simple early Sunday morning road trip, sometimes, it’s my kids or my husband who will be doing the “big” and I will be contributing in the background with the “small.”

You know what? I’m just as happy stepping aside and letting them do “something big.” Our son was given the opportunity to speak Jesus to a group of fourth through sixth graders that upcoming week – and needed transportation to get there and get home. He would be sharing a cabin, role modeling, having discussions about God, building relationships, etc. to help those kids see God in action. He was doing something big.

Our family, on the other hand, took our role of “dreaming big” alongside him seriously. As I told him when he thanked his dad and me countless times for our help, “that’s what family does.”

That type of service and coming alongside one another shouldn’t be confined to biological families. It should be evident with church families as well. It’s important to “dream big” alongside each other as we all fulfill the purpose God gives all of His children – pointing others to Jesus, the only One who can save.

I still have big dreams. God will help me fulfill the ones He wants accomplished and will change the others or help me let them go. In the meantime, I get as much pleasure in helping my family – husband and children (and other brothers and sisters in Christ) “dream big” by coming alongside and doing the “small” which is necessary to fill in the gaps for their “big.”

Because, in reality, every act of service, when done with a heart of praise to Him, is all big in God’s eyes.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James 5:13 (NIV)

 I spoke earlier in “The Summer of … Intentional Memories” about the opportunity for a road trip this summer. The plan was for a family road trip first and five days later a road trip with the kids and I. However, the morning we were to leave, two of the five of us were unable to go after all, so it was up to me to get our oldest to his destination safely.

Okay, I was ready to adjust. We all prayed in the driveway before our two boys and I headed out, and I trusted God had our back. Both boys quickly fell asleep in the pre-dawn hour and I turned on the radio for some “God and me time.”

 

Soon I noticed it was getting darker instead of lighter. Then I noticed some spatters on the windshield and my first thought was … “Really, God? I don’t know if I’m up for dark and rainy. I don’t like either. I can handle one or the other, but both?”

However, before that thought could settle into my spirit, I chose to “praise God for the rain.” My next prayer became, “Okay, Abba. Driving in the rain is not my idea of fun, in fact it makes me nervous … really nervous. But, if this is what you are choosing for me this morning, then I’m going to praise You because I believe You are allowing the rain to protect us from something else.” At this point, I was envisioning heavier traffic, deer running out in front of me – something more dangerous than just steady rain. And then I continued to sing to the radio, thanking God when the rain lightened and gripping the steering wheel tighter to steady the car when it came down heavier.

It wasn’t until we had arrived back home and were running some errands with the rest of the family that God gave me a glimpse as to why, maybe He allowed the rain this morning. The sun was shining and it was HOT, really HOT. I had another conversation with Him: “Did You allow the rain this morning to keep the intense heat away, knowing that driving in a car for five hours with the sun beating down throughout the windshield isn’t very fun? Sometimes it’s also hard to see with sunlight glaring through the windshield. I’m really glad I chose to thank You instead of complain this morning.”

I believe God gave me a choice that morning: praise Him for the rain, trusting that His plan was the best or complain about a small inconvenience that prevented what could have been a bigger inconvenience or even a tragedy.

I don’t always get to see why God allows what He does, but I don’t have to. There are circumstances my family and I have been walking in for years and while we don’t see the answers (or reasons) why at this point, it’s simply for us to trust. And praise God through them. And I do.

What about you? What rain can you praise God for in your life that may be keeping your car cool and comfortable during a long road trip or preventing other worse trials from crossing your path?

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

“Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.” John 7:16 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared three truths God taught me during the last five years our family has been on a “God-adventure.” They included:

  • The Journey is the Destination
  • The Journey is Meant to Prepare and Teach; Not Punish
  • We Can’t Fully Appreciate the Blessings until We’ve Learned the Lessons

Today I want to share with you three more truths God has spoken directly to my heart.

Truth #4: God Doesn’t Play Favorites.

I’ve learned through my time in the desert that our Heavenly Father loves me as much as He loves you. And He loves you as much as He loves me. What I mean by that is this: God isn’t going to hurt me to bless you and He’s not going to bless me to hurt you. This has become one of my favorite truths and I apply it to so many different situations. God loves all His children equally. When I stay in tune to His voice, He is going to guide me toward the best choice in my life but never at the expense of someone else. That is reassuring. When I listen to His voice, I’m assured that my actions speak love to those around me.

Truth #5: It’s Not Always About What It Seen.

How many times in the past have I allowed my feelings to get hurt by what someone has done or said? Recently, it came to our family’s attention that something we were doing was being questioned by others. In the past, I would have felt guilty and ashamed and done whatever I could have to make things right, to get back in good standing with this unknown person.

This time, though, God showed me the greater purpose of the conversation. God had been inviting our family to step outside of our comfort zone and make some changes in our lives, but we were happy, comfortable and loving what we were doing. However, due to this person’s observation and remarks, we were able to take a second look and have a much-needed conversation with God to see exactly what the best “yes” looked like for our family during this upcoming season.  While we’re still having the conversation presently (God hasn’t fully revealed the next step yet), instead of being upset at the circumstances that started the conversation, I’m focused on being grateful the conversation began.  God knew from past experience we wouldn’t have stepped out and started the conversation ourselves. We’re more than willing to listen and obey, but we were enjoying where God had placed us until He let us know it was time for a change..

Truth #6:  Praising God During the Test is as much for Me as it is for Him. This lesson was one of the hardest for me to learn, but now that I have, it comes so much quicker and it’s authentic. Even when I’m not sure what to praise God for, I can always go back to the basics and praise Him for loving me, taking care of me, and teaching me. Praising God through all circumstances is so important. Praising God truly does change my mindset. It takes me out of worry and into worship. It takes me out of panic and into peace. It reminds me how strong and capable my Heavenly Father is and of all the times He has come through for me in the past as well as the truth He won’t suddenly change His mind and leave me on my own.

Those are just a smidgen of the truths God has taught me while I have journeyed through the desert. I’m still in the desert but have gotten a taste of what life will look like when I’m walking in my calling. I look forward to continuing to journey, knowing when I say I trust God, I mean it with every aspect of my life. I also know, for me, I needed that period of desert walking to get to this place of complete trust. I also know I never want to go back to fearing God instead of fully living in faith that He loves me and wants the best for my life. The best may not always look like I envision it, but it’s always what I need.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018