Chambersburg, PA

There is a place for you

there-is-a-place-for-you-photo

While growing up, my mother had a gift at making Thanksgiving glorious! Every delicious item she made was a handcrafted work of art with a symphony of flavors that came together like a beautiful masterpiece.

Real homemade pumpkin pie, her fresh baked loaves of bread, and the infamous “Nana’s stuffing” were always my favored accompaniments that covered my grandmother’s china dishes sitting at my place setting.

To this day I still remember the antique cherry dinning room table, beautifully decorated for the special holiday. The fine linens, the crystal glasses, and the sliver trimmed plates and flatware, patiently awaiting the grand feast.

And although the people that were able to gather around the table changed over the years, the place settings and all the trimmings remained the same. Eventually the day came when I too moved away, and was no longer capable of faithfully attending my mother’s festive celebration of thanks. Even though I wasn’t able to be present, I knew there was always a place for me at her table and in her heart.

Many years have past since the days I sat at her table on Cherry Hill Lane, and instead I now have a table of my own. Beautifully decorated with linens, glasses and the same special china set I ate off of as a child. All gifted to me by the sweet hands of my generous mother.

When I laid out the plates again this year, I couldn’t help but be thankful for so many things. Thankful for having a mom who always did her best to make our holidays special. Thankful that she placed within me the love of preparing a table for my family and friends. And thankful for all the years I got to sit with her at that old cherry wood table.

How I wish we could still be at the same table this Thanksgiving day.

As I pondered these thoughts, and positioned the last place card at the last table setting, the Lord very lovingly brought to my mind a very comforting verse,

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3

I know in my heart there will be a day when we all will get to sit at the places He has prepared for us at His table, and death and distance no longer will separate us from the ones we love. Where we are, not only will He also be, but we will all be together.  A place for each of us.

But until that glorious day does appears, I will cherish all of those treasured memories. I will choose to celebrate all that is left at my table instead of all that is lost, and I will eagerly await to sit at my place at His table.  I pray you too are able to do the same.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-5-40-41-pm Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Do This in Remembrance of Me

easter with words

Originally posted on March 30, 2015

For the past few Easters, my two oldest children find nestled next to their Easter baskets, or tucked on a shelf in their rooms, a Chocolate Easter Bunny.

They immediately know how it got there. They also know from whom it came.

Every year, for as long as they can remember, their dad would give them a large Chocolate Easter Bunny. The bunny was typically one item of many, but as the smaller treats varied from year to year, the large chocolate bunny was a permanent, reoccurring present.

Cadbury eggs, marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans may or may not have made an appearance in their baskets, but the bunny always remained a faithful fixture.

After their father passed away, the holidays became yet another reminder of their great and intense loss. As a mom I frequently felt helpless, wishing desperately I could make it better . . . knowing deeply I could not.

But still, I felt the need to do “something”. Something special for them that would represent their dad on what was once a day filled with his presence and joy.

I began to think about ways to remember their father on Easter. My thoughts drifted back to the very first Easter, and the events leading up to that blessed day. I pictured Jesus sitting at a table in an upper room, surrounded by His disciples, preparing to partake of His last meal. Jesus took some bread in His hands, gave thanks, and then He told the disciples a very strange thing . . . He said, “do this in remembrance of me.”

At that moment, Jesus knew exactly where He was going. He knew the cross lay ahead waiting for him, and He knew this was the last meal He would share with His friends. He chose His words wisely, “do this in remembrance of me.”

He was basically saying to the disciples, “there will be a day when I am gone, and when you come together, and when you break and eat of the bread, do it and remember me.

“Remember the days we spent together. Remember the times we shared. Remember the things I taught you. Remember the words I spoke. Remember what I have done for you. Remember my love and my care, and remember me.”

As I sat, the beauty of this truth unfolded in my mind, and I finally saw the “something” that I could do . . . the chocolate bunny.

I decided even though their father was no longer physically present to give his children their traditional Easter treat, I could step in and “do it in remembrance of him.”

Now on every Easter, I purchase them each a chocolate bunny. I write their names across the box, and sincerely sign, “Love Dad”. And while their sweet heads lay asleep, I position their precious gifts from their father for their eyes to see come Easter morn.

To some this act may seem very strange. I have had people say, “Why do you do that? They know it is you that bought and signed the gift.”

And this is true . . . they do know . . . but . . . I do it so they remember.

So they remember the days they spent with their father, and the times they shared. So they remember the things he taught them, and the words he spoke. So they never forget all he had done for them, all of his love, and all of his care. I do it so they remember.

I believe when Jesus was about to go to the cross, He knew His disciples would be so broken over the loss of Him. He knew they would come back to the very same upper room where they sat and shared their last meal together. He knew they would return, look at the empty seat where Jesus once reclined, and weep tears of sadness and confusion.

But He also knew it wasn’t the end. He knew they would be reunited again. And until then, until that day came, He said, “do this in remembrance of me.”

Perhaps this Easter, there is a chair that sits empty at your table too. And the holiday is yet another reminder of your painful loss. I understand this all too well, and my heart deeply goes out to you.

But this year, this Easter, remember this great truth and know that through Jesus we have been given eternal life, and you will see your loved one again. Until then, do “something” special in remembrance of them. Remember the times you spent together, remember the love you shared, and remember them until you are reunited again.

 

If you too have something you and your family does to remember a loved one, please share with us your act of remembrance below. We would love to hear your endearing stories.

Blessings to you dear, sweet sisters! May the love that took Jesus to the cross overflow in your lives this Holy week!

 

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death;there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

 

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Merry Christmas

SWAN CHRISTMAS CARD

“We wish you a Merry Christmas,

we wish you a Merry Christmas,

we wish you a Merry Christmas,

and a Happy New Year!”

 

Praying the Lord’s peace, love and joy overflows in your lives this Christmas season and all through the New Year.  

Blessings from our family to yours,

The Seven Swans

 

Simplifying Christmas

christmas gifts with words

I made a promise.

I swore I wouldn’t do it again.

I was so done with the Christmas crazies . . . crazy busy, crazy stressed, and crazy broke.

By the time Christmas day made its arrival last year, I was so worn out I made myself sick. Sick enough that I spent most of the day in my pajamas, laying on the couch, unable to truly enjoy this Holy Holiday.

All of the preparation, the shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and cookie baking, all done at the expense of my own physical health and mental sanity. The culmination of so many details building up to one day that I couldn’t even savor.

Never again I swore. Never again will I stress myself out to that point.

And as the Christmas season started to make it’s glorious appearance this year, a miracle happened . . . I remembered this promise. I remembered how miserable I was last year from being sick and stressing myself out, and I decided this was a very good promise to keep. I decided I would simplify Christmas.

Now this wasn’t a completely new concept to me. As a family we had done this before in different ways. But with our growing household (currently we have 10 members of our family at home over Christmas including college kids and exchange students) I felt an urgency to keep things simple once again.

The great part about simplifying Christmas is that you actually enjoy it more. And with the 25th quickly creeping up on us, I thought you might appreciate some tips on how to execute an abridged version of Christmas.

1. Limit Gifts – With 8 children to shop for this by far was my most time consuming activity, aside from the fact that it steals the focus from the greatest gift we have all received and celebrate at Christmas – Jesus! By limiting gifts so much time, resources, and sanity are saved! Here are two popular ways to limit:

  • Give Three Gifts – Our choice for this year! We shared with all of our children ahead of time that this year they each were going to be treated like Jesus. He got three gifts, so they each were going to get three gifts.
  • Give Four Gifts – A popular gift giving model this year is the Four Gifts Idea – You give them something that they want, something that they need, something they can wear, and something they can read. Love this idea! Nice and simple!

(I highly recommend if you are shifting to limiting gifts that you have an open conversation with your family about this first. Emphasize what the true gift of Christmas is, and how limiting earthly gifts will allow more time for celebration.)

2. Hide Gifts – Perhaps you are way ahead of the game and have already purchased all your family’s gifts. You can still save yourself time and skip the wrapping. A fun alternative to wrapping is hiding. Under the tree place a note or small treat with the child’s name and the location of their hidden gifts. Pick a different room for each child and hide their gifts in that room. Watch as they have a blast finding their christmas treasures, which will be a longer and more enjoyable experience since the average kid can open a present in 2.6 seconds. And it’s not just for kids! Adults love this game too!

3. Adopt a Family – One year our children seriously did not need a thing! So instead together we decided to adopt a family for Christmas, and buy all of their gifts. It was a great way for our children to exercise the gift of giving, and since we did it together it wasn’t a stressful event that all fell on my lap to accomplish. Another year we adopted a different family, and we made it real simple that year. We gave them money to purchase the gifts themselves. Either way the focus becomes more Christ like, and less consumer madness!

4. Order Your Meal – There are so many restaurants and grocery stores that offer fully prepared Christmas meals. Cut out all your cooking and food prep time, and relax and enjoy those newfound free moments with your loved ones. By the time you factor in all the trips to the store, and the total for all the ingredients purchased to prepare your meal, it really doesn’t cost more for a premade meal. Plus to me, food always tastes better when someone else cooks it!

5. Make Christmas an Experience – Skip the gifts and make the day an activity! Spend the day on the slopes and take the kids skiing, boarding or snow tubing. Get out of town and go on a trip, or plan a day at home. Have pajama day, movie and games day, or our kid’s favorite . . . family dance party! Go caroling around your neighborhood, or volunteer at the Salvation Army. Just pick something that you can do together as a family and have a lot of fun!

I truly hope these tips will be helpful for you, and I am praying that we all feel the beautiful simplicity of Christmas this year! After all . . .

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diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

What Christmas Means to Me

merry christmas

Merry Christmas Ladies!! The count down is on, our chocolate advent calendars are just a few sweet pieces away from announcing the arrival of Christmas morning, and my days of shopping are complete . . . Praise The Lord! (now the wrapping is a whole other story)

Yesterday we commenced the celebration for the upcoming birthday of our King during our church’s Christmas Service at Bethel Assembly of God.  Every year our church family cherishes this special festivity, and this year we had the privilege of being included in the event.

We were asked to participate in a segment called “What Christmas Means to Me”, our personal account of what this miraculous day symbolizes for my husband and myself. Hope you enjoy, and oh yeah . . . there’s a “sneak” peek at my cute, “sneaky”, and a little sassy husband!

I love that Christmas means something a little different to everyone. We shared ours and we would love to hear all about yours! So please speak in the comments below your personal meaning of Christmas, or even sum it up in just one word.  Whether you choose to share few or many I would love to see inside the hearts of all my Besties, and learn more about you!

 Merry Christmas Ladies, and remember to take time to slow down and soak in the beauty of this

glorious season!

“For unto you is born . . . a Savior,  which is Christ the Lord”  Luke 2:11

diane square  Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: [btn text=”Facebook” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”https://www.facebook.com/sevenswansministries.org?pnref=lhc”] – [btn text=”Twitter” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”https://twitter.com/sevenswansmins”] – [btn text=”Pintrist” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”http://www.pinterest.com/sevenswansmins/”] – [btn text=”Website” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”http://sevenswansministries.org”]

The Christmas Story

Nativity by Jeff Weese

Nativity by Jeff Weese

The Christmas story isn’t just a nice bedtime tale we tell once a year. It is an epic account of God stepping down into our world. It is the momentous occasion of the “Light” entering into the darkness. Christmas is so much more than what we make of it. Remind yourself what the real story is this year… God coming down for you….

The point of Christmas is God’s glory coming for you. When the angels appeared over the fields that night they didn’t sing “Jingle Bells”, “Frosty the Snowman”, or even “Jesus Christ is Coming to Town”. The first words they sang were “Glory to God”. Don’t miss the point that Christmas is all about God’s glory, and don’t forget that “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” (John Piper).

There is so much to celebrate in the Christmas story – so many miraculous elements to it. But what is the real miracle of Christmas? Is it the appearance of angels? Is it the star that guided the wise men? Is it the virgin birth? Is it God becoming a human being? These are all miracles to be sure, but don’t see only the circumstances and miss the real miracle of Christmas… love. Love for you…

John 3 says that ” For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life ” The miracle is that Jesus did not have to come. God did not have to make a way for us. We did not deserve Heaven’s perfect One, but nevertheless God’s love prevailed. He wanted to come.

That is the real miracle of Christmas… You are worth the son of God. He has come for you…He wants you…and if the son of God is priceless and He gave his life for you…then you my friend are priceless. Treat yourself and others as priceless. You are worth the son of God. So is the person next to you. Wow! How would your life be different if you really believed this about yourself and lived it out with the people you are around each day?

I have heard the Christ story many times, but something struck me in a new way with how we present the story. The angels came to the shepherds while they were watching their flocks by night. Christ was born at night in the dark. Sometimes we have darkness in our life…things that are hard, hurtful or hidden. It could be in the past, present, and definitely in the future. Here is the word of God…out in the dark is Jesus Christ. For all the struggle the dark holds for us, Christmas Eve tells us that Christ is there in the dark. He was born in the dark. The shepherds made their way to a darkened Bethlehem…”Yet in the dark street shineth the everlasting light.” John 1 says “the light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never quenched it.”

Jesus comes to bring us His light in our darkness.  Baby Jesus’ coming was about God’s desire to enter an imperfect world filled with poor choices, false starts, pain, interruptions, tears, disappointments, etc… The whole idea of “Silent Night” is baloney. Ever been around a newborn? You want to hear a cry. A cry is the sign of life. At the birth of newborn Jesus,   I am sure baby Jesus was crying!  Definitely no silence that night! In the smelly stable the cows were mooing, donkeys  were hee hawing, sheep were baaing,  and there were loud noisy rowdy people everywhere in town. Definitely no silence! The angel did not appear and say, “Quiet, Jesus is about to be born, and let’s cleanup!” No, the angel said,” Unto you a Savior is born…” Unto you right where you are, right as you are, right into the ups and downs of your life.

Christmas is so much more than we make of it. Remind yourself what the real story is this year… Christmas is about God’s love for you, coming for you through baby Jesus, and desiring companionship with you.  Christmas is a desire to bring His love and His light and His presence and His truth into your life, helping you navigate the ups and downs each day brings. Christmas should not be considered just a season. Christmas should be every day. Embrace the gift of baby Jesus into your life each day. Now go be the light and be the love and be the presence and be the truth in your sphere of influence every day.

This Post was submitted by Nancy Allison:

nancy allsion

Nancy Allison is a humorous and passionate speaker who desires that all know the truth of who they are in Jesus Christ.  She has a heart to share the love of Jesus and teach people truth that sets them free to become all they can be.  In her free time, Nancy enjoys reading and kayaking with her family.    She works as a realtor at Exit Preferred Realty, and with her husband, Todd, at Allison Construction. Together  they have four amazing children: Gaby, Syd, Lauren, and Joe.  Nancy has been ministering to women and youth for over 20 years and currently serves as a Young Life leader and one on one mentor to women. One of her favorite verses is Ephesians 3:12 “In Him and through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” 

I’m Delivered

nativity

It’s Christmas time! That sweet, heavenly time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our King by making ourselves servants to a thousand endless tasks. There’s the decorating, the shopping, the wrapping. The work place parties, and children’s Christmas concerts. The travel plans and house guests. And let’s not forget the task of capturing the family’s beauty in the perfect Christmas photo for the annual Christmas cards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love every one of these things . . . but sometimes I just get way too wrapped up in all of the ACTIVITY of Christmas that I miss the significance of the NATIVITY.

A few years ago I was swinging in the full force of the festivities when my littlest girl found her way into my stash of postage stamps. I was preparing to send out the massive mailer of our family’s Christmas cards when I most likely got distracted by another seasonal task, and left the cards and stamps to sit and wait for another day.

I was in my bathroom getting ready to rush off to the next holiday event, when little Ella entered the scene. She came up to me with the sweetest grin, and pointed to a postage stamp she had placed on her chest. Then with her little girl voice she joyfully proclaimed, “Mommy, I’m delivered!”

I thought it was the cutest thing that she had ever done! Joy and sweetness flushed into my spirit and I leaned in close to hug my “new delivery”, when suddenly I noticed what was printed on the stamp.

It was an Amber Alert stamp, and it pictured a mother hugging her child. But it was the caption on the stamp that struck me the most . . . “saves missing children”.

 

saves missing children

 

Wow! Have you ever had one of those moments in life when everything slows down and you just soak in the surreal-ness of the moment? This was one of those moments.  My preoccupied eyes were opened to see not just my adorable little girl, but a precious truth that I completely adore. That a baby was born thousands of years ago that came to deliver us all and save us missing, lost children.

I love when God interrupts my busy schedule, and reminds me to slow down and see Him. I love that this was HIs plan from the start.

He chose to enter into this world in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a busy day, in a busy town, during a busy season.  A town so packed with people because it was the time of the census, that there was no room for them in any inns.  I’m sure there was an endless list of activities going on that day, in that space. And yet that’s when He decided to enter into the world, press pause in a fast paced season, and redirect the paths of some shepherds, kings, and mankind . . . drawing them to come and see Him, our Savior.

To this day I still keep that little postage stamp on the mirror in my bathroom to remind me of these precious truths: That I am delivered. That I was a missing, lost child that has been saved. And that my Savior wants me to slow down enough to see Him in the tiny details of my everyday life. 

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you won’t just be reminded of that time long ago when Jesus first entered the scene, but instead that you will allow Him access into your busy day and witness Him being real and present, at this very moment, in your everyday life.

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

diane square  Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: [btn text=”Facebook” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”https://www.facebook.com/sevenswansministries.org?pnref=lhc”] – [btn text=”Twitter” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”https://twitter.com/sevenswansmins”] – [btn text=”Pintrist” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”http://www.pinterest.com/sevenswansmins/”] – [btn text=”Website” tcolor=#008000 bcolor=#FFF link=”http://sevenswansministries.org”] 

Give Thanks!

give thanks

My family immensely enjoys teasing me about several silly habits and hobbies I have. One in particular they delight taunting me about is my passion for placement cards.  Whenever we have  a holiday meal I believe that it is a table decorating must to have personalized placement cards.

My husband and children “mockingly in love” thank me for these directives to their seats and express their sheer gratitude for these cards, because without them they just might not find their way to their appropriate positions at the dinner table. (Such little stinkers they are ; )

Last year while searching for the perfect pintrist worthy placement card, I came across these foam turkey cut outs and decided that they would be the ones that would adorn our festive table setting. Not only would they serve as seating arrangement identifiers, but also provide an opportunity for each of us to list out what we were thankful for that year.

As I started contemplating the major life decision of what creative cards I would utilize this year, I looked back at our turkeys of thanks from the previous year, and I took special notice to one item I had written down . . .  “My jobs”.

Little did I know, at that time I was about to lose my primary employment in just three short months. On that Thanksgiving day I did not know this unexpected event was coming around the corner in the New Year. I did not know how devastated, humiliated, and scared I was about to become with the news of this great loss.  I just knew that I was thankful for the ability to work at a job that provided financial stability and allowed me to do something I loved.

Ladies, let me tell you this, it’s really easy to say you are thankful for something before you know how it is going to tear you apart.  And tear me apart it did . . . at least for a moment.  But in that same moment of desperation and scorn, I did the one thing that I knew how to do, and that was cry out to Jesus.

I called upon His name and I cried out “Jesus, I need you now! I need you this very instant! I need you to show up and tell me that it’s going to be alright and that you are still in control.”

I felt in my spirit the Lord direct me to read the verse of the day on my phone’s bible app.  The verse was Jeremiah 33:2-3, and it reads:

“This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.”

I read those words and a supernatural spirit of peace came over me.  I sat as the Lord revealed to me that although I did not know what was around the corner, He did.  He shared that there were remarkable secrets, secrets I wasn’t aware of, about things that were coming .  . .  and He was right!

Through this trying loss I learned that sometimes when we lose things in life its because He has something better He wants to bless us with, something even more remarkable.  Just like in my last blog post “One Thing Remains”, I lost those three precious charms, but through that loss the Lord gave me a message to share that will hopefully live on and impact more lives then those charms ever could.

I can say today that losing my job was definitely one of those times when He had something better for me. Through that loss, that difficult circumstance, the Lord has brought me to a place that He promised to me many years ago. A place of prosperity and blessing. A place where I can step into the fullness of what He has for me. For that I will be forever grateful.

This year when I go to write down on my silly little placement card what I am thankful for, you can be sure that it will say “losing my job”.

How about you? What is it that you can say you are thankful for this year? I would love to hear about it! Please share your items of thanks in the comments below, and may the Lord bless you this Thanksgiving by revealing some remarkable secrets He has for you!

 Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8