Invoice or Love Letter

Wow, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve updated this blog. I apologize. We’ve been moving–yes, again. Only a short distance this time–down the street. (Long, boring story that has nothing to do with today’s post. 😉 ) But with moving comes packing, fence and deck painting, unpacking, cleaning, and more cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? 😉 And amidst it all, I’ve had my share of crabby days … this morning being one of them … when the garage door repairman tracked black oil across our tan carpet. Oy! Now if ever I needed to pause and pray that my head didn’t instantly explode (creating yet another mess to clean), that was it.

Funny God arranged for this post today, well before my need arose. 😉

Invoice or Love Letter by Cheri Swalwell

“Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word tells me that I am a letter being read by everyone. I pray that I won’t be junk mail today. I pray that I won’t be like a bill making people feel like they owe me. I pray that I will be a love letter, a thank you note, and an invitation to celebrate life.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (www.girlfriendsingod.com)

Wow – After the day I had earlier this week, the prayer above really convicts me. I could blame it on the Heatwave, excessive stress, change in routine, any number of things. Honestly, though, it all boils down to me making the choice to let my emotions have the best of me. I wasn’t only miserable myself, but I managed to spread my bad mood to those I love the most too.

MH900178785I think God showed me that prayer on purpose today. You see, I realized yesterday, even as I was saying the words in a not-so-nice tone, how I sounded and how unfair I was being. So, last night, I first asked forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for being such a poor example to those He entrusted to me as well as those unfortunate souls who happened to cross my path. Then I apologized to my kids themselves for being “the wicked witch of the mid-West.”

This morning, I was determined to have a different sort of day. I asked questions instead of accused, found things to compliment my kids about instead of criticizing, and even though it’s my job to keep my children focused on “completing tasks to their best ability,” I chose the better way to go about that goal.

When I opened the cupboard to grab a container and everything fell out on top of me, my response was much different this morning than it would have been yesterday. Did I let my kids off the hook for their laziness? No, but I was very clear in my expectations, delivered with love this time. Does that mean that they were thrilled to hear the message today because it was told in a different tone of voice? No, but that isn’t the point.

I am realizing, and the prayer above just reemphasizes, that it is my responsibility to show this world an accurate example of Christ’s love. I am God’s letter. If I am going to proclaim that I am a Christ follower, then I need to show Christ in my life always, not just when my hair looks good, the scale shows numbers I like, and the temperature is in the low 80s with a breeze. I will even take my convictions one step further. I think it’s more important to show Christ when in the middle of a Heatwave, my stress level is through the roof, or Murphy’s Law has decided to set up camp in my front yard.

People who are looking to see if Christ is the answer to their life are going to look, probably doubly hard, at how a Christ follower handles life on a day-by-day basis, during good and bad days. And, even though I won’t get it right all the time, I pray that I’m learning from my mistakes (like yesterday) and will do better the next time. After all, I don’t want to be accused of false advertising.

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Cheri_portrait-2Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including Christiandevotions.us, Circle of Friends, and Crosswalk.com/family. She is a regular contributor to book fun magazine. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog: http://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or “like” her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. She loves to interact with her readers, so feel free to connect with her at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.

Let’s talk about this. If you’re like me, you often fail to pray when you need it most. Most often because I get so wrapped up in the moment–in myself–God’s kingdom is far from my mind. But like Cheri said, it can be during our most difficult times that others will see Christ shine through–if we would but let Him. What are some ways we can align our hearts and actions more with Christ? And what gets in our way?

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

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A Happy Helpmate

Cheri_portrait-2Today we conclude our two-month Proverbs study with an insightful post by devotional writer, Cheri Salwall.  I like to think of the Christian marriage in terms of it’s missional purpose. We are our spouse’s helpmate not merely to make their life easier or to help them find intimacy, as important as those things are, but instead, God pairs us with our spouse so that we, combined, can fulfill a portion of His eternal plan.

In today’s post, Cheri speaks specifically to us wives, reminding us to encourage and uplift our husband’s daily, but I believe the overall principal–seeking to bring out the best in our spouses–applies to both husbands and wives.

The Happy Helpmate 

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31: 11-12).

 

I love marriage and family and all things related. When I was in second grade, I wrote an essay entitled, “When I grow up, I want to be a housewife.” I wanted to have a small farm and while my husband went off to work somewhere I would grow our vegetables, feed the animals, take care of our children, and keep the house clean.  In my seven-year-old mind, that was the perfect job.

Thirty-three years later, I am living my dream.  My husband grows a vegetable garden that I help maintain and eventually we will raise chickens for fresh eggs.  I’m privileged to work from home and take care of the kids while my husband goes off to work.  In our family, the children are very well aware their dad is the head of the household and their mom is his helpmate.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex describes a helpmate as “a companion and helper, especially a wife.”   Proverbs 31: 10-31 gives great guidelines of how to achieve the role of helpmate God placed inside the heart of women to fulfill.  Strong women are condemned at times in today’s society for emasculating their men, but I think it takes a strong woman to be the helpmate God designed us to be. Being a helpmate doesn’t mean never expressing an opinion; it means trusting your husband to make the final decision after you both have had a chance to discuss the issue together.  It means you use the resources God has given you, your strengths and talents, to come alongside your husband and help him be the best protector and provider he can be.  It means that you work together to help your family succeed.

Being his helpmate means that you intentionally seek to bring out the best in your spouse.  Being his helpmate means being his number one cheerleader, even if he makes a bad decision or two.  If the roles were reversed and you were in charge of leading, do you think you choose correctly every time?  When you blow it, what kind of a response is more likely to help you get up and try again – nagging and “I told you so” or the kind, gentle reminder that “I believe in you.”?

A helpmate is someone who will actively look to see what she can do to make the life easier for the one on the frontlines.  That could mean offering to pick up his clothes from the laundromat even if it’s out of your way, keeping the house “company ready” if his job is one that has people dropping by unexpectedly, or volunteering to balance the checkbook, keep the family calendar organized, and make the list of phone calls that keep a family running smoothly.

I have one friend in particular who willingly and lovingly steps into this role with her husband on a regular basis.  She casually mentioned one Sunday that she woke up early to fix her husband a hot breakfast before he left to perform on the worship team.  She supports his role in ministry and wanted him to have extra confidence by doing what she could to help him perform at his optimum instead of being jittery from too much coffee and no real sustenance.  Even though she is not actively participating on the team, in essence she is performing an act of service to God as well.

When I think of the Proverbs 31 wife, that is my mental picture.  She wakes up early, when necessary, to perform the duties she can in order to assist her husband in providing for their family – whether financially, spiritually, emotionally, or physically.  She sometimes goes out to work and earn money for extra expenses, without complaining, and makes sure that she wisely uses the income her husband provides to teach the next generation the importance of a budget and also to show her husband how grateful she is for his hard work.  She takes care of herself spiritually, physically, and emotionally so that she can perform at her optimal best, encouraging her husband to take time to do the same.

The last and most important part of being a helpmate is to have the right attitude.  When we lovingly doing our part to take over some responsibilities in order to lessen the load our husbands carry, we’re making his job easier.  Not just physically but emotionally.  When they knows we have come alongside them and truly want to help, they can then leave confidently, knowing they will be welcomed home and appreciated for their contributions to our families.  I think we would all agree that we perform at our best when we’re supported by those we love.

I want to encourage all of us to strive to be loving helpmates to our husbands.  When we all work together to please God in our actions and attitudes, everyone wins.

Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including Christiandevotions.us, Circle of Friends, and Crosswalk.com/family. She is a regular contributor to book fun magazine. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her website at http://www.cheriswalwell.com where you can connect to her blog or “like” her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. She loves to interact with her readers, so feel free to connect with her at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.  In addition, she has written two devotionals, A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Because They Need You and A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

flatecover_1_ (3)A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level:

Do you ever feel like life is out of control and you just need a chance to stop and catch your breath? If you wrestle with questions such as fear versus faith or how to find balance in such a fast paced society, then A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level is a great solution.  Get ready to relax with a series of 40 devotionals taken from the author’s blogs where she just talks to you, friend to friend, about life’s challenges with a spiritual perspective.  It’s small enough to fit in your purse or briefcase, great to give to a friend who needs some encouragement, and reasonably priced so you can pick one up for yourself at the same time.   Available at amazon.com.

A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Because They Need You:

A set of 40 devotionals taken from the author’s blogs where she enjoys talking to you, friend to friend, about the joys and trials of raising children.  It’s small enough to fit in your purse or briefcase, great to buy for a friend who needs a little pick me up, and reasonably priced so you can buy one for yourself as well.  Get ready to be encouraged and challenged in a lighthearted way while taking a deeper look at the heart the author has for her own children and those she loves.  Sit down, grab your favorite beverage, and get ready to be uplifted while journeying together as parents.   Available at amazon.com.

What is one way you can show your spouse you’re their cheerleader today? In a typical day, do you tend to speak more words of encouragement or condemnation? If the latter, what are some ways you can actively guard your words?

Choosing Hope

A while back, I read a beautiful account of how one mother trained hope in her child, and I immediately thought of Proverbs 13:12. It seems we humans can endure almost anything, as long as we have hope. Hope for change, hope for love or companionship, hope that whatever we are facing won’t last forever. Ultimately, our hope rests not in this world or the things of it, but the unchanging nature of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His promise of heaven where He will indeed wipe every tear from our eyes. In the meantime, I believe He sprinkles a great deal of hope throughout our day. We just need to look for it, to grab hold of it, and not allow our concerns or problems steal that hope from us.

Cheri_portrait-2Today’s post comes from  a sweet sister in Christ who has guest posted for me before, Cheri Swalwell. As you read her devotion, pause to consider how you can train hope as well, not just in your children, but in yourself.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 13

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

Today’s focus: Choosing and grabbing hold of hope

This week’s memory verse: Proverbs 15:15 For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast (NIV).

Hope by Cheri Salwell

I started a ritual with our youngest at bedtime, not realizing I was creating something meaningful.  In all honesty, I was just trying to stop his tears.  In his mind, everyone else was still having fun but he had to go to bed.  So, I started to distract him by talking about all the fun things he would do the next day, exciting activities he did that day, and sometimes, if his chuckles were extra loud, we would talk about the fun we would have all week.  It put a smile on his face, giggles in his belly, and he would settle down easily so we could pray, sing, and rock a little before tucking him in bed.  I didn’t realize how much he enjoyed it, until asking me what fun things he would do the next day became his evening ritual.

That was when I realized I was teaching him about hope.  bedtimehopeNot on purpose, but instilling it nevertheless.  I started thinking…isn’t that what we all do?  Don’t we look forward to things to come?  Plan for the future?  Have goals in our personal life, professional life, marriage, and with our children?  Isn’t the goal to lose twenty pounds a sense of hope?  What about training for a marathon…hope that you will finish, beat your personal score, or maybe even come in first?  Getting the job promotion, saving for a house, planning a vacation, beating cancer?

Life without hope or something to anticipate brings about a completely different perspective.  I’ve had periods of life where I’ve felt “hopeless” about certain situations.  Thankfully, those periods haven’t lasted too long, but I’ve had that feeling of hopelessness and I know how awful it can feel.

The Bible tells us that if we’re God’s children, we have hope in every situation, no matter how desperate it seems.  We don’t have to be hopeless, feel helpless, or worry about the answers.  With God, even diagnoses like cancer, financial hardships, wayward children, and extramarital affairs – no matter what the issue, we can have hope.

The following is a concept that has always brought me comfort. In Psalm 139:16, we are told, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV).  This assures me that years before I was even born, God knew what would happen.  He knew about this particular day, event, trauma, tragedy, or whatever it may be that wants to destroy the hope that I have.  In Proverbs 13:12, we learn that we can become physically ill when we lose hope, but something anticipated and achieved brings vibrancy and health.

The best hope of all is what’s to come – Eternity.  For those who are God’s children, which anyone of us can be if we accept His free gift through His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise of experiencing things far greater than we can imagine for all eternity.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of forever when I can barely keep track of my schedule this week, but it’s there, nevertheless.  And, that, my friends, is real hope.

The vacations, losing twenty pounds, or getting ready for a marathon are all nice to help break up the monotony of life, but Eternity in Heaven with God is the ultimate goal.

Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including Christiandevotions.us, Circle of Friends, and Crosswalk.com/family. She is a regular contributor to book fun magazine. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog: http://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or “like” her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. She loves to interact with her readers, so feel free to connect with her at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.

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Let’s talk about this. Where do you place your hope? So often, it’s easy to focus on the here and now, which isn’t entirely bad, unless that is the extent of our hope. How can focusing on eternity and the things of God bring about fresh hope?

Do you hope for spiritual things–like increased love, patience, kindness, and wisdom, as much as you hope for material things?

How diligent are you in guarding your thoughts? I believe we can and must control what we think about, continually turning our focus off of ourselves and onto the things of God.

What are some ways you intentionally grab hold of and/or teach hope?

You can share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or join our Yahoo study group by clicking the button below.


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How Close Are Your Friends?

Relationships can be tough. We’re sinful people living in a world with other sinful people. Add to this the fact that most of us are insanely busy. Because of this, it’s easy to remain on the surface level with others, failing to develop the deep, authentic, transparent relationships God desires for us. Today Cheri Swalwell urges us to go deeper.

Rules or Relationship by Cheri Swalwell

Ecclesiastes 4:10: “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” 

I have talked in the past about following a set of rules versus entering into a personal relationship with God. Today I’m going to talk about relationships with those around us. Sometimes I think it seems easier to follow a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” than to work on an authentic relationship. I know I’ve been guilty of the same thing, but I believe that we miss out on so much when we take the easy way…both in our relationship with God and with others.

Having an authentic relationship means being vulnerable and taking the chance that you could get hurt. Being genuine with others sets you up for rejection…ridicule…being judged. Taking a chance on a friendship means that it might not be reciprocated in the same way…on the same level…with the same feelings.

It also means you could stumble into a relationship where your needs and those of the other person are met on a deeper level…with deeper understanding…with genuine empathy and support, finding a true friend who is willing to walk with you throughout the numerous trials and joys that you will experience on your life journey.

I feel that God calls us to be as authentic as possible with those around us. Or at least to give it a chance. Does that mean that all your relationships have to strive to hit that deep intimate level? No…I don’t think that’s very realistic. It’s not feasible to maintain the same level of intimacy with someone you see three times a year as you do in your relationship with your spouse (or at least I hope so).

That type of authenticity and level of relationship isn’t possible with everyone, or even healthy with everyone. However, I believe strongly that if we are seeking God’s will in all areas of our lives, then He will reveal (and provide the opportunities) which relationships He wants us to dig a little deeper with and which ones we will practice authenticity to a lesser degree with.

When God is in control of all areas of our life, then even though we can veer off course at times (we are, after all human), He will always provide a way for us to get back on track. Then, the relationships He provides will be beneficial not only to us but should spill over into our interactions at our workplace, our church, and in the community.

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Cheri Swalwell describes herself as a Christ follower first and foremost, wife, mother, and avid reader. She has been blessed to guest blog on a variety of guest blogs including Christiandevotions.us as well as Crosswalk.com/family. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog: http://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or like her at Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell/220762911373306.

Let’s talk about this! <img title=”Hostess Button” src=”https://jenslatterysblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/hostess-button.jpg?w=500″ alt=”” width=”297″ height=”426″ />

I’ve heard it said, whatever’s not growing is beginning to die. Pause to consider your relationships in light of that sentence. What are some things you believe hold us back from authentic community, and how can we move past that? Why do you think God desires for us to be in close relationships with others?

Join us at <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/pages/Living-by-Grace/208718449189065″>Living by Grace</a> as we talk about developing and maintaining close relationships.