Seeing Clearly

glassesI have a tendency to be silly about some things, and my eyesight is one of them. When I was a child, I was VERY proud that I had excellent vision. I loved the fact that I could soar through eye tests with ease. My pride may have stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t breeze through all of the tests I was given in school. For instance, when I was in elementary school, I actually flunked skipping in gym class. I don’t know why skipping was so hard for me—I just couldn’t get the rhythm down. Anyway, I was very proud that passed all my eye tests and didn’t need glasses.

My terrific vision lasted all the way through college and beyond, but after my carbon monoxide poisoning, things began to change. I was put into quarantine, and whether it was the carbon monoxide exposure, the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or the fact that I was writing for hours at my computer, my eyesight began to fail.

There’s a picture of cabin with a crooked fence post in my living room. When I realized my eyesight was getting worse, I became obsessed with that cabin. Every day, I would stand in front of the picture and then slowly back up. I measured how far I could back away and still see the crooked fence post. It was horribly distressing when I realized that my distance vision was getting worse and worse. Each day, I had to get closer to the picture to see the fence post clearly. Immediately, I began to pray. I beat against the gates of Heaven, asking God to restore my vision. Just like when I was put into quarantine, I struggled against what was happening. I fought it. I tried to deny it. I tried to ignore it. But believe it or not, some things don’t change just because you want them to.

Glasses. Ick!!!

I hated my new glasses. I hated my failing vision. I was NOT content with the situation. I was NOT grateful that my vision could be corrected. I was miserable that it had to be corrected in the first place. And even with glasses, my vision continued to decline. I was NOT happy with God. I figured if He didn’t heal the big thing (my Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), He could have at least healed the little thing—my eyes. Even after I got glasses, I continued checking my vision against the cabin picture. I kept hoping that maybe things would turn around, but they didn’t.

After several years of mental turmoil, you’d think I would’ve become accustomed to my glasses, but I didn’t. To me, they were a sign of defeat…at least they were until something amazing happened.

binder clipsWhen I edit my novels, I do most of my editing on computer, but sometimes I use a printed manuscript. I have a table set aside for manuscript editing. On the table is a cup of red pens and yellow highlighters, and on the rim of the cup is a binder clip.

One day, I was really stewing about my glasses. I stewed about the way my glasses felt on my nose. I stewed about the way my glasses made me look in the mirror. I stewed about how God didn’t heal my vision when He OBVIOUSLY had the ability. Basically, I was acting snotty toward God, and I was spending my day grumbling, and griping, and feeling nasty.

Finally deciding that I’d better get to work on my manuscript, I grabbed a red pen from the cup. The pen hit the binder clip, and the binder clip dislodged from the cup’s rim, sprang up, and hit the lens of my glasses. The impact was so hard that it knocked my head back. It happened so fast that didn’t have time to blink or react.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I picked up the binder clip and stared at it.

I’d heard stories about a boy losing his vision when he was hit in the eye by a cookie. The cookie hit with such force that it caused irreparable damage, and eventually, his eyeball had to be surgically removed.

I stared at the binder clip some more. The clip had hit my glasses with incredible force. If I hadn’t been wearing glasses, the clip would’ve hit me square in the eye.

Sitting there, holding that binder clip in my hand, I realized something amazing. My glasses were a BLESSING. Not only were they helping me see better—they had just protected me from something awful. Sitting there, holding that clip, I asked myself a question: Could God have ignored my prayers about my glasses because He knew that if I wasn’t wearing them, I might have lost an eye???? Standing there, holding that clip, I had to admit it was possible.

I don’t know why some things happen. I don’t know why some prayers go unanswered. But one thing I do know—now, when I look at my glasses, I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel upset. I don’t feel cheated. I feel very, very content. I also feel very, very grateful.

pretty skyFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

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Lisa J. Lickel–Author Interview (Everything About You)

Lisa Lickel A

Dear Friends,

It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Lisa J. Lickel back to my blog. Lisa is a wonderful person, and she’s just published another book! Everything About You is the 5th novella in Prism Book Group’s “Love Is…” series. Everything About You was released on Friday, March 25th. I’m so happy for Lisa, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to talk with her again.

Danele: Hello, Lisa! I’m so glad to have you back on my blog!

Lisa: I’m delighted to return. Thank you, Danele, for being such a gracious hostess.

Danele: I’m so excited to have the chance to learn more about you! Can you tell us the circumstances surrounding your decision to give your heart to Christ?

Lisa: I went to church camp in junior high school and met some wonderful adult role models.

Danele: Is that when you made your decision to follow Christ?

Lisa: No, when I was in high school, I explored a number of religions. I was unsatisfied and questioning what kind of religion would have a crazy man like Jesus for a God, and the whole Trinity thing was beyond me. Later, I was invited to a Christian fellowship youth group meeting. That’s when I finally allowed Christ into my heart. I was listening to some praise music, and the incredible joy, and the indescribable encounter with the Spirit, still makes me shiver as He came in to dwell.

Danele: Wow! That’s wonderful, Lisa! You mentioned that you were listening to praise music when you gave your heart to Christ. Praise music can be so powerful! Is there a specific song or hymn that you particularly love?

Lisa: I was introduced to the modern hymn In Christ Alone by my son. It spoke to me, blending the old and new. Matt Redman became a favorite songwriter and singer of mine. This was one of the last songs I learned while at my former church. I used to play guitar once a month or so, even though I’m dreadful at it and have about one note where I’m actually in key when I sing. The hymn, In Christ Alone is the Gospel message in a nutshell. It is plain and simple with a haunting melodyy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENtL_li4GbE

Danele: Thank you so much for the link! In Christ Alone really is a beautiful song! Music can indeed be powerful! Now, here’s another question for you. How has being a Christian influenced your writing?

Lisa: When I first began writing, I didn’t know there was a Christian market and a mainstream market. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christian fiction until my husband’s grandmother starting giving me Janette Oke’s books for Christmas. So…I planned to be a Christian who happened to write fiction. I soon learned that the Christian publishers had a lot of “rules,” and I learned to follow them while writing for Barbour publishing. Since that first contract, however, I have been published by several smaller publishers and some of them aren’t faith-based—but I still have Christian characters living their inspired and flawed lives, doing the best they can, and I don’t apologize for it. After all, who do we want to reach with the work we’ve been commissioned to perform? I belong to a writer’s group of eclectic authors and hope I’m a positive influence.

Danele: I’m sure you’re a very positive influence! I know you’ve touched many lives! Lisa, there are so many people who are hurting in this world. What would you like to say to them?

Lisa: As I’m writing this now, today, a young couple from church are saying hello and farewell to their second child. They are friends of my son and colleagues of my husband. It is so unfair. There’s no other way think about it. It’s horrible and no one should have to go through that experience. I feel like I’m losing a grandchild, and I’m not related by anything but love and Christ. There are no words, and believe me I have used words in the past that would have been a comfort to me, but were the absolute worst thing to say to another. It’s really, really hard to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Prayers of comfort, certainly. And a hug.

Danele: I’m so sorry, Lisa. My heart goes out to that family. Tragedy can be so difficult to understand.

Lisa: My thoughts are that most of the things that happen aren’t because of what we’ve done, or because God hates us, or wants a good laugh, or doesn’t care. Most of the things that happen to us are not even about us, but for someone else who will need the example of what we’ve gone through at some point. How we react is much more important than the event. We are temporary. We are grass in the wind who long for our true home in heaven.

Danele: That’s truly beautiful, Lisa. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us! Now, before I let you go, I’d love for you to tell us a little about your new book release.

Lisa: Everything About You, is a novella that’s part of the “Love Is…” series based on 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the fifth book in the series and based on the concept that love is not proud.

Danele: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Lisa: Wisconsin has hosted several major motion picture shoots, and I played around with the idea of using a movie set with a reverse Pygmalion theme. And, voila!

Danele: What a fun idea! Can you give us the back cover blurb and a purchasing link?

Lisa: Sure! She needs a movie set miracle, he needs cash…can a farmer morph into a movie star in five days? If Shelly has her way, Danny will become America’s next heartthrob and she’ll get her own promotions company. He’s already gorgeous, a little naive, and needs to work on that accent. To Danny, Shelly is on the pompous side, but holds the key to his real dreams…if he can figure out all the rules, say the right things for the daily blog session, keep his heartstrings in place, dodge Shelly’s vicious former boyfriend and the movie star diva. Shelly’s about to lose a lot more than her heart if she can’t get a handle on her wounded pride and learn who to trust. http://amzn.to/1PSSuk6

Danele: Lisa, I wish you all the best with your new release! Thank you so much for talking with us today!

Lisa: You’re very welcome. It’s an honor, and thank you for allowing me to share my stories with your audience.

 

Friends, Lisa is a terrific person! If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Web: www.lisalickel.com

Blog: http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/lisalickel

Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/author/lisalickel

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@lisajlickel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisalickel/

 

The Temptation Train

train 2Before I ended up in quarantine, my life was extremely busy. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t have time to draw a breath. Since I was going a thousand directions at once, all I could think about was my “to do” list. Then I became ill, and my busy life slowed to a stop.

Quarantine—what a horrible word. Seven years of separation from society.

Bible 1I used some of my quarantine quiet time to reflect about my personality flaws. I knew I had weak areas, and I intended to tackle them. Feeling very serious, I took a notebook and divided it into sections. I assigned each of my character flaws a section, and then I began my research. I dived into the Word of God and found Scripture verses dealing with my weak areas. I wrote the Scriptures in my notebook and memorized them. Along with prayer, I used the Scriptures as spiritual ammunition to try to conquer my flaws. This wasn’t a little project; it lasted for years—and in many instances—is still going on.

train 1Around my second year into this project, something interesting began happening. I began understanding temptation on a deeper level. Not only was I becoming aware of my weak areas, I was becoming aware of a pattern to the temptations I faced. As I continued battling my flaws, I discovered that the devil was using a temptation train.

I know that sounds strange, so let me explain. In Luke 4:1-13, the devil presented Jesus with a series of temptations. Each time, Jesus quoted a Scripture and didn’t fall into sin. The devil presented his temptations all in a row, and Luke 4:13 says that “when the devil had ended ALL temptation, he departed from [Jesus] FOR A SEASON.”

train 5When I was in quarantine, I thought a lot about Luke’s words. I began to realize that they not only provided a guide on how to handle temptation, but they also contained information about the enemy’s tactics. You see, the devil didn’t just hit Jesus with one temptation. He hit Him with several in a row. And after Jesus met each challenge, the devil departed for a season—inferring that the devil was planning on coming back again. As I continued battling my flaws, I realized the devil’s pattern of temptation wasn’t unique to Jesus—the devil was using that same pattern in my own life.

boots on trackYou know from reading my blog that I have problems with worry, anger, resentment, and fear. (I have problems in lots more areas than that, but those will suffice for examples.) When a season of temptation would hit, it was as if the devil was starting down my list of weaknesses. First, something would happen, and I’d start worrying about my health. Once I realized what was going on, I’d quote Scriptures and stand in faith against worry. Almost like clockwork, the devil would move on to my anger issues. Something would happen, and I’d find myself getting mad. Instead of flying off the handle, I’d rein myself in and quote my anger Scriptures. Next, the devil would try to bring up a memory of an old hurt. I’d be tempted to rehash the painful incident in my mind, but I’d quote Scripture and refuse to go there. Then the devil would hit me with fear. I’d hear a weird noise at night, and I’d start to feel afraid. Again, I’d grab my Scriptural ammunition and go to war. Once I’d battled fear, the devil would move on to another of area of weaknesses. It was as if the devil was going down a checklist and testing each side of my character to see if there was any way he could make me miserable.

rail 2I’m a very visual person, and in my mind, I began picturing the devil driving a temptation train into my life. Each train car would contain one of my weaknesses, and I would have to fight—and win—a battle in each car before the locomotive left. Usually this process took about one or two weeks. During those weeks, I faced an intensive battle against my flaws. Once the temptation train left, I’d have a time of peace—but after a while, the devil would drive his temptation train back into my life and the testing would start again.

train signAfter a while, I found the process almost fascinating. You see, before quarantine, I was too busy to make the connection between times when my life was more difficult, and times when the devil was tossing temptation my way. I literally didn’t realize that the devil was chugging his temptation train right through my brain, and that the temptation train was THE REASON my life seemed more difficult. When things slowed down during quarantine, I was able to see a definite pattern—one that had the devil’s fingerprints all over it.

train track waterEphesians 6:12 says that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:13 tells us to take “the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” 1 Peter 5:8-9a tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” And 2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us that we don’t have to give Satan an “advantage” for we are “not ignorant of his devises.”

train 4As I continued battling my flaws, I found that the devil’s temptation train usually came when I was tired or sick. I had to be vigilant at all times, but especially when I felt physically weak. I learned how to be smart and arm myself before the battle began. During the peaceful times, I stored up Scriptural ammunition and kept close to God in prayer. I opened my eyes and acknowledged my areas of weakness. I recognized triggers that could lead me into problems. When I did all of those things, and the devil brought his temptation train around, I was able to stand up and battle in the engine, and the coal car, and the passenger cars, and the caboose. One after another, I was able to stand up to the enemy, and many times, I’d come out victorious after his swings. I didn’t always get it right, but I was at least learning and trying.

freedom 1Quarantine was a horrible thing, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it gave me the time I needed to slow down and think things through. It helped me understand certain truths. It made me realize that I’m in a non-ending spiritual battle whether I like it or not. It made me aware that the devil knows my weaknesses, and he’s trying to use those weaknesses to destroy me. I’m aware now that the devil picks certain times to come against me. And I’m aware that through prayer and by applying Scripture, I don’t have to be slaughtered by the temptation train—I can stand on the side of the tracks, face each car, and then wave it on its way. I’ve learned that I DON’T HAVE TO BE DEFEATED. I can be aware of the devil’s devices, I can take up the armor of God, I can be vigilant, I can resist steadfast in the faith, and I can WITHSTAND in the evil day!!! I CAN HAVE VICTORY!!!!

Bible and prayerI know that there’s nothing easy about spiritual warfare. I also know that when a person thinks they have it all figured out—that’s when they need to watch out. I’m still learning each and every day, and I fail more times than I’d like to admit. But I do believe that the key to winning spiritual battles is being aware of what’s happening, and then coupling that knowledge with prayer and Scripture. Life is confusing. Life is hard. But God has given us Jesus’s example, prayer, and Scripture to help see us through. With God on our side, we can be victorious over everything—even the temptation train!

Emily Paige Skeen–Author Interview

Emily

Dear Friends,

It’s my honor to introduce you to Emily Paige Skeen. Emily is a sweetheart of a person, and she has just released a new book called Magnolia Lake. Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know Emily, and I’ve been impressed by her kind heart, her sunny personality, and her love for the Lord. I feel very privileged to be interviewing her today!

Danele: Hello, Emily! I’m so glad that you’re able to talk with us!

Emily: Thanks so much for having me, Danele! I’m excited to share a little bit about myself and my faith with your readers.

Danele: I’m so glad that you’re here! I’m eager to learn more about you! My illness taught me the importance of trusting God.  Have you had a difficult situation in your life when you needed to totally rely on God?

Emily: Yes, I have. Back in 2014, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our second child. Until this point, I’d always worked full-time and I was currently employed as the Coordinator of Operations for a chiropractic group. I loved, loved, loved my job and my coworkers (seriously the best group of people to work with!)…but there had always been this longing deep in my soul to be home with our children. I’d missed so much of my daughter’s young life—and so many milestones—because of working outside of the home. I didn’t want that to happen with our next baby. I felt strongly that a big part of my life’s calling was to be home with my children. I knew it in my heart, I knew it in my brain, but I didn’t know it in my wallet. So I went to my husband with this idea to stay home. Well, really I went to him again—we’d discussed it in the past. And finally, after much talk and in spite of the fact that our financial situation wasn’t ideal (to say the least), we decided that with our oldest starting preschool part-time and a new baby on the way, my being home made sense. But we still needed money. I just knew there had to be a way for me to make at least a small income while being home. I’d been dappling in freelance writing for a few months, and I had previously self-published a novel—without much success. Writing had always been a passion of mine—I’d just never had the chance to really pursue it. This was that chance. So, I decided to dive into this writing thing all the way.

Danele: That’s exciting! What happened next?

Emily: In August of 2014, I left my office job, and in November we had our precious baby boy. The year that followed was…difficult, to put it mildly. Our son was a hard baby to deal with. For example, he didn’t sleep through the night until he was one. He woke up not once, but several times, every single night for an entire year. He cried constantly, and I could hardly get any writing work done. There were many days when I didn’t know how I’d ever make this situation work. How would I ever be able to bring in the money we needed when I was constantly dealing with the baby? And to top it all, I was forever exhausted from being up with him at night. My husband did what he could, but our son was (and is) quite the Mama’s boy. I struggled every day with feelings of guilt, sadness, worry, and frustration. The house was never clean, I was barely getting any work done, and the baby was always crying. And because I was so overwhelmed, I was neglecting my older child and my husband. I felt like I was failing at everything, drowning in chaos. I was just one big, soaking wet failure.

Danele: Oh, Emily! I’m so sorry!

Emily: In the midst of it all, God was there. He led me to Prism Book Group, and I ended up with a contract for that novel I had self-published. Over the years, I’d sent in many queries for this particular story, but had been met with only rejections. It wasn’t until I quit my office job and devoted time to my writing career that I finally secured a contract for it. It was as if God was waiting on me to take that leap of faith. On top of the publishing contract, God has always provided for us financially. From small writing gigs here and there to a run-in with a deer (that’s a story for another time), we’ve been able to stay afloat—even if only barely above water at times. What I learned in this past year was that God is faithful—and He didn’t create any failures. He wants us to succeed and be happy. If we can just put our trust in Him, things will turn out okay. I’m not saying life is perfect right now, but I certainly have plenty to be thankful for. And I know now that leaning on God through the chaos is the only way to really overcome it.

Danele: Wow! Thank you so much for sharing that experience with us! I love how God sees us through the hard times. Another thing I love is God’s sense of humor. Has God ever revealed Himself to you in a humorous way?

Emily: He sure has! This is pretty funny, and some may think it’s cheesy. But I just have to share! During that same time I mentioned earlier—when I was dealing with a fussy baby and trying to get my writing career off the ground—my husband and I purchased a fixer-upper home (which only added to my stress levels). Anyway, when we were ready to make the buy official, I was at work. There was one form I needed to sign and email that would seal the deal—and from which there was no turning back. During my lunch break, I prayed hard. Probably harder than I’ve ever prayed before. I asked God for guidance and for a sense of peace about the decision to buy this particular house. And then I went to Taco Bell. If you’ve ever eaten Taco Bell, then you know the sauce packets all have little sayings on them. Well, out of all eight or so of my packets, there were only two quotes. I actually can’t remember them now, but both said something along the lines of “Go for it!” Now, you may think that was just a coincidence, but I considered it God’s way of giving me the go-ahead that I so desperately needed.

Danele: That’s priceless, Emily! You just made me smile! I think it’s so special how God can give us little reassuring messages when we need them the most. Now, I know that there are many people in the world who are seeking for answers right now, and some of them are hurting horribly. If you could talk to them, what would you say to them?

Emily: Even though my situation was nothing compared to what so many other people suffer through, I do understand feeling like you’re at the end of your rope with nowhere to turn and no solution in sight. I know the soul-crushing pain that comes with feeling like a failure. If this sounds familiar, I’d like to tell you that there is hope. No matter what your storm may be, God is the calm. All you have to do is reach out to Him. With a little faith and some time, you’ll experience peace like you’ve never known.

Danele: That’s truly beautiful, Emily! Now, before I let you go, I’d love to hear more about your new book, Magnolia Lake. Can you share a little bit about it and give us a link where we can find it?

Emily: Sure! Magnolia Lake is my debut novel and was released on March 11th. I am so excited to share Cora Stephens’s story with everyone! Cora is a high school senior on top of the world. With a perfect boyfriend, good looks, great friends, and coveted social status, she has it all. But things aren’t always what they seem. In what should have been the best year of Cora’s young life, she faces betrayal, heartache, tragedy, fear, and pain. Magnolia Lake follows Cora on her sometimes terrifying and often heart-wrenching journey to discover if her faith can get her through the hardest thing she’s ever experienced.  http://www.prismbookgroup.com/MagnoliaLake.html

Danele: That sounds wonderful, Emily! I wish you every success with your new book! Thank you so much for being with us today! I really appreciate this chance to get to know you better!

Emily: Thanks again for having me, Danele! I always enjoy reading your blog—you’re such an inspiration! It’s an honor to have been included in a part of your world.

 

Friends, Emily is such a sweetheart! She is an incredible person, and if you would like to learn more about her or Magnolia Lake, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

https://www.facebook.com/EmilyPaigeSkeen

http://emilypaige486.wix.com/epskeen

http://emilypaige-author.blogspot.com/

Easily Offended–Who, Me???

fear of unknownWhen I was a teenager, I harbored a GIANT secret. It was a secret that I hoped no one would guess—I wasn’t perfect. The truth was that I wasn’t even close to perfect. I felt like a mess most of the time, and I hated feeling that way. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you know that I’m pigheaded, and you also know that I like plans of action. Well, I had a pigheaded plan to cover up my flaws—I was going to act as perfect as possible all of the time.  Unfortunately, acting perfect isn’t easy. I was trying incredibly hard to do everything just right, and I was horribly afraid that I was going to fail. And every second of every day, my deepest fear was that people would see right through my “perfect” exterior and realize that I was the weirdest goofball on the planet.

split headBecause I was afraid that people could see through me, I was always on alert. In my mind, I became an expert at reading body language. I thought I could pick up on nonverbal cues and tell when people thought I wasn’t measuring up. As I went throughout my day, I was constantly studying people’s faces to see if they were being critical. I was always picking apart people’s sentences to see if there was a hidden insult.

This of course, was EXHAUSTING!!!

When I thought people were being critical, I would become offended and try to defend myself. I would either confront the person by explaining in great detail how I was doing everything right, or else I would retreat into my shell and ignore the person completely. Neither method was healthy, and neither provided positive results.

Truthfully, I was a mess.

shattered reflection1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love isn’t easily angered, or irritable, or touchy. It says that love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. If I’m going to be honest, even though I was trying hard to be a “perfect Christian” I wasn’t living a life of love—I was living a life of vigilant manipulation. If people didn’t think I was perfect, I was going to MAKE them think I was perfect. I’d argue my point until they were exhausted, or I’d ignore them until they were ashamed. My attitude wasn’t just wrong—it was sinful. Not only that, it was just plain STUPID. Most of the time, the nonverbal cues that I was so “expertly” gleaning were incorrect. Lots of times, people weren’t trying to be critical, and they were totally confused when I’d get my poor little feelings hurt and pitch a fit. The truth is, when I went around guarding myself from offence, I looked like a fool, and I was a pain in the neck to be around.

sphereNow, what changed things? That’s simple. I read James 3:16 and finally understood it. “For where envying and strife is, there IS CONFUSION and every evil work.”

This verse hit me right between my eyes and made me stagger. I knew that my obsessive desire for approval meant that my heart was full of envy and strife. James said that where there is envy and strive there IS (not maybe or possibly—but IS) CONFUSION and every evil work. As I read that verse, I began to wonder if it was possible that my mind was confused. Was it possible that I was perceiving things in a skewed way?

After praying about it, I went to my mother and asked for her help. My mother is one of the wisest people that I know, and she didn’t brush off my concerns—she agreed to be my sounding board. glass reflectionWhen we were out and about, she would listen to things that were said to me and later we would discuss things. I’d tell her exactly what I thought the person had meant, and she would tell me what the person had ACTUALLY meant. You see, I’d hear the exact same thing my mother heard, but I had the meaning all mixed up. For instance, when a friend said she had to run to the store and asked if I wanted anything picked up, my mother heard a nice offer from a thoughtful person—I heard someone saying that they didn’t want to spend time with me and telling me that I was too incompetent to go to the store for myself. Many times, my mother was astonished at what I thought I’d heard.

When I realized that I was confused, I wrote James 3:16 on a note card. I laminated it and put it in my pocket, and I kept it in my pocket for close to a year. Whenever I would talk to people and think they were being critical of me, I would put my hand in my pocket and touch the notecard. I would remember that I could be perceiving things incorrectly. I would remember to give the person the benefit of the doubt. I would remember that love isn’t easily offended or touchy. I would smile and let any “cruel” words or “slighting” actions slide past. I would refuse to take offense. I would picture myself as a big, bouncy ball. Offence would try and hit me, but it would simply bounce off my rubber sides and fly off into space.

sunset freedomAs time passed, I began to enjoy my new freedom. And yes, it WAS freedom. Not having to worry about protecting myself from every word and glance was liberating. Not having to stomp out fires and prove my worth was exhilarating. I never knew how horribly bound I was until suddenly I was walking free.

Was I being a fool to live this way? Shouldn’t I have kept trying to protect my reputation and my “perfect” image? Not on your life. I’ve learned that most people aren’t trying to be snarky or mean. Most people are so caught up in their own lives that they don’t have time to worry about yours. Most are busy, and worried, and harassed, and tired. And if they say something offensive, they usually don’t mean it—most of the time they aren’t even aware that they’ve said it. And if they are trying to be a jerk—then why would you worry about what they thought anyway? Why would you waste one second of precious time trying to convince them that they are wrong? It simply isn’t worth the effort. Life is too short.

butterfly soapbubble 2Before the scales were lifted from my eyes, I thought minds couldn’t be confused, but I was wrong. You see, when we get into the habit of being easily offended, we allow our minds to become the devil’s playground. When we allow envy and strife into our hearts, we basically lay out the welcome mat for confusing thoughts. I’m not always the sharpest tool in the toolbox, but one thing I’ve learned through bitter experience is that being easily offended is a HORRIBLE way to live. It is suffocating. It is exhausting. It is mentally tortuous. It’s much nicer to let go of the vigilance and trust God to handle things.

Cheri Swalwell–Author Interview

Cheri Swalwell

Dear Friends,

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Christian author, Cheri Swalwell. Cheri is an incredibly sweet person, and she writes books designed to help hurting people. She has a true heart for God, and I feel very honored to have the opportunity to interview her.

Danele: Hello, Cheri! Thank you for being with us today!

Cheri: Thank you so much for having me, Danele. I’m so glad God allowed us to meet when I discovered one of your blogs on Facebook. Like you, I love dragonflies too…and God incidences!

Danele: God really is awesome! That dragonfly incident was one of the most amazing moments of my life. (For those of you who haven’t read about the dragonfly, you can find the story on the “Welcome!” page of my blog.) Now, Cheri, I’d love to learn more about you. My illness taught me the importance of trusting God—have you experienced something that’s helped you trust the Lord?

Cheri: I’ve been a Christian since I was six years old, and I learned back then it was a relationship, not a religion.  However, it wasn’t until I had been married seven years and I had the courage to ask God, “Do I really trust You?” that He began showing me what a real relationship with Him involves. It was fall of 2006, and I was in a women’s Bible study at church. The subject of trusting God had come up, and as I was driving home, I asked Him, “God, do I really trust You? I don’t think I do,” and I remember being afraid of His answer.  (If that doesn’t answer the question of trust, I don’t know what does.) I remember telling Him, “I want to trust You, but please be gentle with me in the process.” 

Danele: What happened then?

Cheri: Two months later my husband and I found out that I was pregnant with our third child—one planned by God, not by us.  One day shy of the twelve-week mark, I lost the baby.  Two months later, we began what has been an eight year (so far) journey with chronic illness affecting my husband. Then, in August 2013, my job began a downsizing that was finalized February 1, 2015 with a complete job loss (I like to say job transition).

Danele: Oh, Cheri! I’m so sorry! That must have been incredibly hard!

Cheri: Yes. However, God used all those circumstances in my life (you could say I’m a slow learner) to help me learn how to let go of fear and instead replace it with faith in Him.  He also taught me just how much He loves me and who I’m truly working for—not bosses on earth, but Him.  I haven’t perfectly learned every lesson He’s wanted to teach me, but I have been obedient and this work in progress is willing to continue learning.

Danele: I love how God brings us triumphantly through all of our hardships. I really love Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” It’s nice to know that hardships will always pass away and joy will always return. Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Cheri: I have many favorite Bible verses, but one that God gave me in the spring of 2013, just a few months before He allowed the second phase of my family’s journey to begin, was Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV): “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. The LORD will fight for you; you only need to be still.’” There were so many symbolic “Egyptians” in my life at that time—I would take time every morning to name them while praying this prayer over my life, and it truly helped me to realize just how much God loves each of us and wants to fight for us.  We are never alone when we are His children.

Danele: That’s lovely Cheri. It’s nice to know that we don’t have to be afraid even when surrounded by problems. Can you tell us a little bit more about how God helped you through that difficult time in your life?

Cheri: As I mentioned before, I didn’t fly through our miscarriage, my husband’s chronic illness, or my job loss effortlessly.  I was human and showed God human emotions—anger, fear, sadness, depression, even a few pity parties.  However, He was always faithful in patiently bringing me back to what He wanted me to learn. And He gave me plenty of practice until those characteristics were a new way of life for me.  I can honestly say that while the trials I’ve experienced the last several years haven’t always been pleasant, and at times downright scary, I’m so glad God allowed my family to walk through them.  We have empathy we wouldn’t have otherwise. God created good from what Satan meant for evil, and I have a closeness with God that might never have gotten to this level had I not had to press in and really make the choice—do I trust Him or not?  And the icing on the cake? While I miss my child that I never got to meet, I have a baby waiting for me in Heaven for all of eternity, and I know that God is the best babysitter of all time.  I truly believe that when I die and meet Jesus face to face, He will greet me with the little one who was always His to begin with.

Danele: I love how God helps us through sad times, and He also helps us through scary times. Has God ever helped you when you were afraid?

Cheri: Yes, He has. I will never forget one particular night.  The first Monday in January 2015, I received the email from my boss that my job would be terminated in less than 30 days.  I will admit—I was scared! The next night I rode with my husband and our youngest child to get gas while our older two stayed home.  It was supposed to be a quick trip, less than 10 minutes.  As we were driving down a very familiar road, my husband let up on the gas briefly because we saw police cars in the driveway of a house.  Two seconds later, a herd of deer (not just one or two) ran across the road in front of our car, directly in the path of my husband and our five-year-old’s car doors.  If God hadn’t allowed the police cars to slow us down, my husband and/or my son would have been dead.  I was shaken, but at the same time I felt as though God was saying to me, “If I can protect your loved ones from this—don’t you think I will protect your family from a job loss?”

Danele: Wow!

Cheri: If that wasn’t enough, three days later we woke up to a blizzard.  My husband chose to call into work that morning (something he never does) and our children had snow days as well.  While we were tucked into our house nice and warm, we heard of a hundred car pileup on the highway—killing several, injuring many, leaving hundreds stranded.  Once again, God said to me, “I protected Bill again from injury—I have your situation under control, Cheri. Just trust Me.” I believe that God protects us more often than we realize, and I truly believe He “lifted the veil” on those particular days to show me just how much He loves me and that He was in charge of the job loss.

Danele: That’s really beautiful. Have there been other times when God has given you a definite feeling of peace?

Cheri: Yes. Every year I ask God for a word for the next year.  The word He gave me for 2015 was “hope.”  I didn’t really want hope–I thought that meant I would still be working toward my goals, and I was tired.  I wanted to see results.  However, He showed me hope is so much more. My word for 2016 is “peace.”  I am so grateful to have the word “peace.”  One – I’ve learned never to be ungrateful for a word God chooses to give you.  Second – Peace is a person (Jesus) and God has allowed me to experience His peace in different circumstances in my life.  The circumstances may not have changed, but when God’s peace floods me, there is no better feeling in the world.  I am choosing in 2016 to ask for God’s peace whenever life throws a curve ball instead of automatically hitting the panic button.  I’m not perfect at this, but I’m slowly improving with each chance to practice. God’s peace is indescribable but once you’ve had the privilege of experiencing it, you want it again and again and again.

Danele: Cheri, thank you so much for sharing your heart with us! Before I let you go, I’d like to talk with you about your writing. Can you give us a list of the books you have written?

Cheri: Sure! I’ve written: Hope During Heartache and the Spoken from the Heart Series.

Danele: There are several books in the Spoken from the Heart Series, aren’t there?

Cheri: Yes. Journey from Fear to Faith, Taking it to the Next Level, Digging Deeper, Parenting 101 (Volumes 1-4), Connections, Blessed By His Love, Embracing the Adventure, and The Adventure Continues.                    

Danele: I know that three of your books speak directly about your job loss. Can you tell us more about them?

Cheri: A blessing God gave out of the trial of job transition from 2013 through 2015 was my books: Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith, Spoken from the Heart: Embracing the Adventure, and Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues. These books are about learning how to trust God through trials in our lives.  They chronicle the journey my family took, but they are relevant to any trial people face, not just job loss (transitions).

Danele: Can you give us links where we can find them?

Cheri: Of course!                                                                                                           Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith: http://amzn.to/1PiQRf5   Spoken from the Heart: Embracing the Adventure: http://amzn.to/1NB3phk   Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues: http://amzn.to/1NK4r8o

Danele: Your books sound really special! Cheri, thank you so much for being with us today! I really enjoyed talking with you!

Cheri: Thank you so much, Danele, for allowing me this privilege. I’m so glad God allowed us to meet!

 

Friends, Cheri is a really wonderful person! If you would like to read more about her or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Blog: http://bit.ly/1gRp9oK

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1h4eudV

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CheriSwalwell

Email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com

 

Love Remains

stary night 1There’s a learning curve when it comes to living in quarantine. You don’t get it right the first try or two. You see, making your house a chemical-free zone is complicated. I was able to do the obvious things like getting rid of all perfumes and detergents, and locking smelly keepsakes in a closed room—but there were other things that I had to learn the hard way. For instance, I learned that the fireplace needed sealed with plastic sheeting after wind blew smoke from burning ditches down the chimney. I learned to block off the kitchen exhaust fan when my neighbors were using a cherry picker and the exhaust from the machine filled the attic and flooded the kitchen. And I learned to seal off my windows with tape and plastic wrap after one horrible night when the house flooded with an unknown noxious smell from outside.

roadway darkIt was late at night when the noxious smell hit, and before I knew what was happening, the whole house was full of the stinky odor. Instantly, I became very ill. My mother and father voluntarily lived a “quarantine-safe” lifestyle so I could be around them, and they rallied to my side that night. While Mom stayed behind to try and clear the smell out of the house, my father took me for a drive to get away from it.

As we took off down the road, I can remember being in incredible pain. Muscle knots were forming all over my body, and it felt like a knife was being driven into my stomach. My heart was beating erratically, and I was having trouble breathing. As my father drove us deep into farming country, I laid back in my seat and concentrated on pulling air into my lungs and pushing it out again. Suddenly, I knew I was going to vomit.

star night personDad pulled to the side of the road, and I staggered over to a ditch. I can remember standing in the pitch dark getting ready to experience the awful indignity of tossing my cookies, when suddenly something caught my eye. We were on a back country road far away from light pollution, and in the darkness, the stars were burning brightly in the sky. The sight was incredibly beautiful. I can remember watching in awe as a falling star left a burning trail across the midnight sky. At that moment, I realized that my illness, my trials, the fact that I was getting ready to vomit in a ditch—all of it—wasn’t really that big of a deal. In the grand scheme of things, this moment in time—tragic and horrible as it was—would pass. Eventually, it would be forgotten. Time would take the sting away.

At that moment, as I looked up at the stars, I felt peace.

galaxy roadDad joined me, and together we paced back and forth on that dark, lonely road. He held my hand and helped me walk. The motion began to stretch my knotted muscles and calm my rolling stomach. Dad squeezed my hand and talked to me—I can’t remember about what—but what I do remember is the love in his voice.

As I walked that road with my father, another realization hit me. Not only does pain pass away—but love always remains. I knew that the memory of my muscle knots would fade, but I would always remember the squeeze of Dad’s hand and the sound of his gentle voice—I would always remember how much he cared.

Life is made up of moments—some bad and some good. The thing that I learned on that dark, lonely road is that pain fades, but love remains.

I think that’s beautiful.

 

rock heartAnd now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13