When someone you love takes their own life

The season of summer always seems to bring growth into my life. For as long as I can remember, I have looked to summer with hope, expectation for care free living, and full of adventure. This summer turned out to be filled with grief, confusion, shock, and heartbreak for me.

The beginning of my summer was full of change. I moved out of my parents house and into my own. I started a new job as a bridal consultant and left my summer job that I had held since my Junior Year of High School (I’m going into my senior year of college now…so basically a lifetime!) Just kidding, but moving and starting a new job was for sure a new adventure for me.

The first few weeks of summer zoomed by. June came which meant my 21st birthday happened! Little did I know only 3 days after my birthday, I would experience the worst heartbreak of my life.

On June 11th, a loved one of mine who had suffered for a long time with chronic pain, chose to end his life.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and as I planned to go to his house after church, I opted out and chose to take a nap instead and visit him later on.

I woke up an hour later from my Sunday afternoon nap to two missed calls from my Dad. I called my Dad back, asking him if everything was okay, and he responded with the tragic news that my loved one had died. As I sat in shock, tears rolling down my face, Dad revealed to me even more horrible news… that our loved one had taken his own life.

I could not grasp what Dad was saying to me. The next few hours of processing are a blur to me. I remember telling my roommate Lauren what had happened and letting my other friends know to pray for my family.

I came home to my parents and my family later that night, still in shock. When someone you love commits suicide, you automatically have tons of questions, start to wonder where to shift the blame, and struggle to not wonder what you could have done better.

The weeks following his death, I found myself at random times hearing the lies of Satan…”You should have gone and visited him but you were selfish and napped”, “You could have stopped him”, “You could have been better”, “He didn’t love you or else he wouldn’t have committed suicide”, or the one that got me the most; “You didn’t mean anything to him for him to end his life like that.”

When I was confronted with Satan’s lies, I either had the choice to believe them or to rebuke them. I found myself starting to believe them, until I was reminded through scripture that Satan is a liar.

I have had to rebuke the lies Satan has thrown at me through this everyday. No matter what we are going through we have to rebuke the lies of Satan. God will never take us through things alone. God will never talk down to us or remind us of our failures.

I found myself feeling hopeless a lot this summer. I have felt alone, anger, confusion, and have found myself where I was so exhausted that I was just proud I made it through another day. I had to give up my questions of “why?” and “what could I have done differently?” or “Could I have stopped him?” and I had to lay each question at Jesus’ feet.

I say all of this to make these points…

Suicide is not an option. If you struggle with depression or wanting to end your life, please know this is not the end, your life will get better. Talk to someone you can trust. Go to a counselor, (I’ve learned it’s okay and important to do so). In the end suicide leaves your loved ones high and dry, searching for answers,as I found it doing to me this summer. There is always a better way, and that is by looking to Jesus for a way through this life, not looking for a way out by yourself.

It’s okay to not be okay. This summer I have not been okay. It was hard to admit at times even to my friends. Death does weird things to people. It’s a topic people try to avoid. If you’ve gone through losing someone to any kind of death, you probably noticed people may not always know what to say… and that’s okay. If you have a friend going through the loss of a loved one, do not worry about what to say to them, rather just be a comfort through listening to them and prayer.

God will work out everything for good in our lives. In situations such as losing a loved one to suicide, it’s honestly very hard to find any good in it. God works through each situation in our life. It will always get better. Just because God works out everything for our good does not mean it will always be easy. It will be HARD sometimes. But, in those moments of pain, we sometimes can see Jesus clearer than we have ever seen Him. “ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Throughout the pain of this summer, I have been able to grow closer to Jesus than I could ever imagine. The hard times are sometimes unbearable, which is why we have Jesus who will take our burdens and walk through them with us. You are never alone. You are so loved. No matter what you have gone through, just know that there is always a light in the tunnel. It may be a super dim light, but it’s there. I’m currently at the beach and it is night time. I can see a boat with a light miles and miles away. I would have to go through currents, ups and downs to get to the light, but I can see it is there. Jesus promises to go through the ups and downs of our lives with us. He has never left us and He never will.

Yes, I still have days full of heartache. No, I’m not okay, but I know one day I will be. Never give up. It will always get better. Lay your burdens down at Jesus’ feet and run recklessly to Him. I guarantee He will be there with open arms for you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14:27

Ignition

Life is a beautiful thing.  We all have things in life that make it more beautiful.  For some, it is the smell of freshly cut grass or cookies baking in the oven.  For others it is the embrace of a loved one or a stunning vista after a long hike.  We all have passions and things that light our world.

Inevitably, life throws us curveballs and we can get bogged down by stressful situations, friendships, grief and pressure. It can be difficult to find joy in darkness, but at the end of the day, our passions remain.  In order to return to the light we must return to what brings joy in our lives, or even discover new things to ignite that passion.

My story with Jesus is not so different.

Throughout my 21 years of life, I have gone from the darkest valley to the highest mountaintop and everywhere in between.  Sometimes my love for Him overflowed and my passion to give my life for His calling was almost overwhelming.  On the other hand, I have also been in the deepest pit of doubt and denial, wondering if He really was able to save me from the darkness and even deciding I did not care whether He was or was not.

There is beauty in the journey, but you must keep moving forward.

God is so good.  Even in the darkness, He is there.  Deep down, I have always known this to be true, but even more difficult to shake than that darkness is apathy.  I have fallen so often and so easily into a lukewarm comfortable place of the “normal”.

I go to church on Sunday, do devotions a couple times a week, write for a christian blog, caption some of my Instagram pictures with scripture or worship lyrics, have coffee dates with my girls and encourage them to trust God more and wait on His timing… I mean that is not wrong, right?  I am walking through the motions, knowing God is with me, but not feeling that fire.  What is worse though, is not realizing that something is missing.

I am speaking from experience, hoping I am not the only one who knows this comfortable, normal, “lukewarm christian” trap. It is only when I realize that that passion is missing that I start to get sad, scared and even anxious.  What did I do to lose it? Can I get it back?

Thankfully, we have a gracious God who loves us more than we could possibly imagine – so can we ignite that fire for Him once more? Absolutely.  There are a few things that I have found can help me find that passionate love once more.

Take the time. We make time for what we love.  In this crazy life and culture, we are always rushing from one thing to another, and that often leaves little room for His still small voice.  If He really means as much to you as you think He does, then you will make the time.

Eliminate distractions. We always have something vying for our attention these days.  Whether it is social media (in its many many forms), texting, television, radio, or other such things, it is pretty easy to fill any “down time” with other distractions.  If you are managing to make the time, turn off your phone, shut your computer and give Him the attention He is has more than earned.

Worship.  I am a lover of music, so it should be no surprise that this always makes me feel closer to Him. Whether I am playing it myself on my guitar or piano or just listening to tracks on my phone, worshipping always brings my heart to a place of reverence, love and wonder.  Some of my more recent favorite worship albums are Be Exalted (Kyle Smith & Lauren Sweeney) and Wild Heart (Urban Rescue).

His creation. Sometimes I need to get out of the place that is most stressful for me and just get outside. Very little brings me to such a place of awe and wonder quite like getting knee deep in his creation.  Whether you live in the mountains, plains or by the shore, there is endless beauty all around us.  That is His gift to us.

His word.  “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  Just read.  We have a book that is full of wisdom, love, faith and more.  We have the very words of Jesus – if that does not strike awe into the heart of believers, I do not know what will.

Talk to Him.  My father once spoke at my school’s chapel about prayer.  He told us to imagine a beautiful lush mountain garden, and in the middle of the garden, there is an old stone bench.  On that bench, sits God, waiting ever so patiently for you.  When you want to talk to Him, you walk out to that bench and sit down next to the Lord. “Oh my daughter, how I have missed you,” He would say. “Tell me what is on your heart.” Do you just spit out the list of things you want Him to do for you? Do you tell Him about your day? Do you talk about your struggles and ask why?

Most importantly, do you listen for His response, or in your own business, do you stand up and walk away without letting Him say a word? When my father gave this illustration, I began to see prayer differently.  Jesus wants to speak to me, to all of us, but so often we come before Him with our list of problems, asking for guidance, and walk away without listening for what He has to say.  He wants to speak life and love into our lives, if we will only take the time to listen.

Spend the time.  He more than deserves it.  You will see, as I have, that if apathy is what ails you, running to Him will ignite that fire and passion once more.  How can we spend time with the One is was, is and is to come and not fall madly in love with Him?

~Gaby

As always, the Woven Together team is here for you. If you would like to contact us for prayer, encouragement, advice, or just someone to talk to, you can reach us on our  Facebook, Instagram ( @_woventogether) or Twitter ( @_woventogether). You can also email us at woventogetherministries@gmail.com.

What is To Come

A few days ago, I was sitting in the floor of my room, surrounded by piles of clothes, scattered books, and random clutter.

I had a mile-long to-do list, but no motivation or energy to accomplish anything.

And as I was cowering on the floor, completely overwhelmed and almost to the point of exhaustion, I thought to myself: is this vacation even going to be worth all of this trouble?

Now, I know I was being just a touch overdramatic, but if you have ever had to pack a suitcase with everything you need for a week to the TSA’s standards, you feel my pain.

But here’s the point—sitting in the floor that day, I could not see the bigger picture.  I couldn’t see the beautiful views and gorgeous beaches in my future.  I couldn’t imagine how much fun I’d have snorkeling and exploring.  I lost faith in how much fun this vacation was going to be. Because, I will tell you right now, this vacation was so worth the stress of packing.

I can’t help feeling that the same thing happens to us as Christians.  Sometimes, we get so focused on the pressures and worries of this world, that we forget that this isn’t our eternity.

This reminds me of a passage of scripture in Romans 8:18-25:

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)”

Whatever pain we endure, whether it be sickness, or hurting hearts, or just the strain of everyday life, it’s nothing compared to the eternal hope that we have in our everlasting life with our Savior Jesus Christ. And, friends, we cannot even imagine what wonderful things are ahead of us.

1 Peter 1:6 says “so be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

A few days ago, I was overwhelmed by the stress of packing.

Now, I’m looking at a crystal clear blue ocean, sea breeze keeping me cool, praising God for His magnificent creation.

While it is true that in a few more days, I will be headed home, back to my normal life, which is not without its fair share of worry and stress, I’m encouraged by the assurance that one day, this life will end, and I will get to experience eternal peace, see unimaginable glory, and spend the rest of time with my friend and my Lord Jesus Christ. I pray you are too.

 

And if you haven’t come to know Jesus as your Savior and Comforter, feel free to message us at Woven Together. We’d love to share with you!

With love,

Faith

 

Seeking God in the Transition

Today on my timehop I was reminded of my trip for freshman orientation at
Liberty University.  It brought back all my pictures and tweets of the excitement,
nervousness and how I fell in love with such a beautiful campus. I did not realize that daywhat opportunities, blessings and friendships I would gain from being there.

Two years later, I am in a different place with a different plan and am a different person.
Going into my freshman year at Liberty, I was just a nervous psychology major
who cried saying good bye to my mom but also met my very best friends all in the same
day.

I still remember the feelings of walking up all four flights of stairs with my stuff, moving in and that final good bye. I assumed this was it I would do this for the next four years: come home on breaks, get good grades, study hard and have good times and just
continue the cycle until graduation day. Little did I know God would have a completely
different plan for me.

In the past two years, I changed my major, made more friends, got
a summer job, moved back home and am now doing online classes while becoming a
medical assistant. I did not expect to be here but I know this is where the Lord has led
me. We all want comfort and peace within ourselves, in order to achieve that we need to
put all of our trust in the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to
prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God knew where you would be today, even before you were born.  He knew what you
would become, your likes and dislikes, your relationships and your plans. We have to
understand that we are not the writers of our story, God is. If something does not
work out for you it does not mean that God is against you.  It means that He has a better
option for you.

Sometimes our plans are different then Gods and that is okay. We may get frustrated and ask God why but simply, the answer is that He loves you so much.  While it easy to get lost in our own thoughts like who will I marry,  will I be able to get a job after graduation, why am I stuck in traffic, and other such things. For every thought we have God has an
answer.

I want you to understand 3 things….

1. CHANGE IS OKAY

While its hard to accept changes, we need to understand that its Gods plan and
because He love us!!

2. TRUST IN THE LORD

All we can do is give it to God and allow Him to be in control. He loves you and
will never hurt you so the choices He made for you are important and special to
you.

3. PRAY PRAY PRAY

What else can you do when you are happy, frustrated, confused or happy? Pray
to the Lord to direct your path, thank the Lord for the blessings He gave you and
remember He is always there for you.

As always, the Woven Together team is open to be here for you. If you would like to contact us for prayer, encouragement, advice, or just someone to talk to, you can reach us on our  Facebook, Instagram ( @_woventogether) or Twitter ( @_woventogether). You can also email us at woventogetherministries@gmail.com.

Why not my will?

I was in the car this morning, listening to Kari Jobe, and I was simply talking with God. Usually when I’m driving, I’m praising God of all the goodness that he has done but this time it was different.

For the first time in my life, I asked God, “Why not MY Will? Why not MY plan?” Usually I am very optimistic about God’s plans for my life. I guess for the first time in my life, things just were not going my way. I like to be in control of things– which is something I am definitely working on; it is definitely a trait that can hurt yourself and others. For the first time, I had no control. Anxiety and fear began to creep in and my faith began to diminish. With little faith, it becomes really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fear and anxiety take over your mentality and blur your vision, which is exactly what the devil craves to see.

So why not my will? Well you see, God is HUGE. God is so mysterious and wondrous. I would like to think my plan was the correct plan but God knows everything. God’s plan for me, us, is greater than we can ever imagine.

It is quite funny actually, I always tell my best friend, “Trust in God, He knows what He is doing and everything happens for a reason.” Well right now, I’m finding it hard to even take my own advice. See, when we are in the midst of fear, anxiety, and sadness, it blurs our thoughts. It’s hard to think straight.

But God says, “Give me all of your fears, anxiety, and sadness… because I conquered it all already.” What little faith I have sometimes. To think God does not have everything under control. To think my plan is greater and better than His. How silly.

Darkness is always coming to distort our emotions, which is why we should always prepare. It is so hard to see what God is doing in the moments where we feel so hopeless, but imagine how much joy we will encounter once we see why we went through those dark times.

Our plan is not always God’s plan and we need to be ready to have faith that His plan is much better for us in the end.

“The pain that you have been feeling, can’t compare to the JOY that is coming.”

-Romans 8:18

I am not sure what you are going through today, but I hope this encouraged you in some way or another.

-Michaela

As always, the Woven Together team is open to be here for you. If you would like to contact us for prayer, encouragement, advice, or just someone to talk to, you can reach us on our  Facebook, Instagram ( @_woventogether) or Twitter ( @_woventogether). You can also email us at woventogetherministries@gmail.com.

 

Image found from http://www.pexels.com

The Fire

I have nearly always loved summer thunderstorms…until the other night.

“BOOM!” I heard as I got ready for bed. The house shook. The power shut off and came back on. If you have ever been in a typical rough thunderstorm before, you know the drill.

A short while later, I crawled under my covers and opened my Bible. Before I could read a verse though, I became distracted. There was a strangely loud hum of a truck coming from outside my window.

“It is after midnight,” I thought. “Why on earth would there be a truck that loud roaming through our quiet neighborhood?”

My curiosity piqued, so I pulled back my curtain and pressed up one of the blind slats to peer outside and see none other than a huge blaze of orange fire.

I could not believe it, so I blinked and looked again. It was still there, so I figured it was true. The house across the street was engulfed in flames. The loud hum of the truck was actually multiple firetrucks set up along my street, desperately trying to get water to put out the fire and save the surrounding houses from the same fate. As for the “BOOM” I had heard, well that was a lightning bolt hitting that unfortunate house, catching the homeowners’ attic on fire.

After getting up my family and alerting them of the fire, I headed outside. All I could do was watch the destruction and talk to our neighbors. I found out the most important news – the homeowners were safe, yet the blaze continued.

Our neighborhood has no fire hydrants, so the firefighters had difficulty accessing water. Eventually, they were able to have swamp water delivered into a pool through which the hoses could pump water. By this time, most of the house had collapsed and the pine trees in the yard were on fire. Embers flew high above the trees in the sky.

However, once the firefighters began diligently spraying the fire, it quickly receded. Within minutes, the raging fire died down, and only remnants of fire from the heat kept popping back up.

The hardest part of putting out the fire was simply accessing the water to put it out.

I think the same goes for the destruction of sin in our lives. We have to be willing to let the Lord actually access our hearts to put out the sin. We have to completely surrender all we have and call for help.  Surely, He who is able can help us overcome our sin. He is the one who can trade beauty for ashes and salvation for belief and repentance.

In Maria Goff’s book, Love Lives Here, she talks of the pain of her family lodge burning down and how she was glad nothing remained of it.

“If there were even one old charred beam still standing after the fire, I’d be tempted to use it to rebuild…We do this all the time in our personal lives, too. We keep scorched pieces from our biggest failures and incorporate them into our lives and rebuild ourselves. It’s not a good construction practice with wood, and it doesn’t make for a good future when we do it with our lives, because it reminds us of our past. Sometimes we’re best served to start all over…start over in our lives the same way we’ll start over at the Lodge – we’ll make it a holy place again, nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes getting there requires clearing absolutely everything away from what we had, or who we were. Doing this is both simple and hard, yet we all get to decide whether we’ll do what is required. And for the courageous at heart, we simply start again.”

In the past few weeks, I have not felt like myself. Summertime is a season of starting over of sorts, yet I have been tiptoeing around the Lord and holding onto “scorched pieces” by not fully trusting in Him because I keep questioning His plans for me and doubting of His delight in me. So while I have not been fully embracing Him, I have kept seeking answers through His Word.  However, I had not let His love pump through my soul as the water did through the hose. I did not want to feel His love for me when I found it difficult to love myself and trust my Father.

Instead, I have tried to control my own heart because I could control little else. Like lightning that appears beautiful and enticing while it illuminates the night sky, so does sin appear tempting and even beautiful in a world of darkness.  Lightning bolts are fleeting, lasting only for a moment. My soul was not satisfied with my own attempt of control. Only my Father can eternally fill my heart through His love.

Since the night of the fire, I have seen lightning strike again and again. Similarly, the destruction of sin continues in our lives even when we love the Lord, like the remnants of fire that kept reappearing from the heat. But I am praying that we begin to talk to the Lord increasingly and become more aware of our sin. Like a lightning bolt’s clearly defined lines, may we understand the state of our hearts. May we learn to love ourselves a lot more by loving our sin less, being refined by the fire and starting over on the solid foundation of the Lord.

If you have felt the fire this summer, too – beyond the taste of s’mores around a campfire – maybe it is time for you to begin again. You have access to the Father of the Universe, simply call His name in surrender and let His love start a new kind of flame in your charred heart.

 

Loving the face looking back at you

Being happy with who you are is hard. How often is the grass greener on the other side? Did you know there are so many others out there saying the same thing? You may not believe it but it is so true.

I am a people pleaser, so growing up I tried to fit in with whatever was going on.  In high school, this was especially true with the sports teams I played for. Now that I have been out of that realm for quite a few years and stepped into adulthood, I have realized just how hard it was and how much I was breaking myself to make everyone happy.  It was so hard to win someone else’s approval. I felt as if I was to the point of being a “door mat,” if you will.

Today, I am here to encourage you to just be happy with who you are! Do what feels right for you and where you feel God telling you to take the next step! When I left my job back in October of 2016, I had know idea what was going to happen. I had no game plan, no ideas of what to do next.  The only I had was this small voice that said, “Get out of there! I have so much more for you on the other side of this!”

Now, do not get me wrong –  I DO NOT have it all together. No one does!  However, when I finally decided to stop being scared, started to love how God made me and be happy with this life God is leading my through, I changed a lot and for the better! New doors began to open, I started my own business, I have been able to be there for my family and a wonderful loving guy walked into my life.

So be happy with who you are and the path you are on. God wants you to be, after all He made it!

Side note… I am writing this in the living room of some friend’s house that I’m house-sitting for.  In the bathroom, taped to the mirror is a slip of paper that says, “Good morning, this is God. I will be taking care of all your problems today. I will not need your help. Have a good day.”

It may be blunt and to the point, but it is so true! How awesome is it that we have a God that wants to take care of our problems and enjoy life with Him? Because if we are not careful it slips away so quickly. Loved ones pass, your babies grow up and  if we are not careful, we may miss it.

Do not waste your time wishing you could be different or have more of something else. To borrow Olay’s catchy slogan, “Love the skin you’re in,” and watch.  Doors will open and will God take you to new places, so have fun while you’re at it.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

Psalm 136:1

 

-Much love, Olivia