One on One with Gaby: Christmas far from home

I (Haley Martin) asked our lovely editor/blog writer, Gabriella Naine some questions on how to handle being away from loved ones during the Holidays. Gaby is currently a student at Liberty University. She grew up overseas in Cameroon. While she moved to the states for college, her parents and family remained overseas in Cameroon.

Gaby is currently finishing her senior year at Liberty and her parents just made the move to Kenya. She is sometimes able to go home on breaks, but this year was not the case. She spent this summer in Lynchburg, and spent time with her grandparents in Richmond. She will be able to see her family for a few weeks when they visit the states over the holidays. We hope this interview encourages all of you who will be away from your loved ones over the holidays!

Haley: Where does your family currently live & how many times a year do you see them?

Gaby: My family were missionaries to Cameroon for twelve years, but have moved to Nairobi, Kenya in the past year.  I see them once or twice a year for a couple weeks at a time at most. 

Haley: How do you handle not seeing them as much, especially when the holidays roll around? 

Gaby: My family has adopted a rather large number of Christmas traditions and I was blessed to have a family that always made Christmastime so magical and all about Jesus.  I also didn’t necessarily grow up in a place where Christmas began at the beginning of November, so Christmastime is an odd time for me these days.  While I’m just as obsessed with Christmas music, food and movies as the next person, It definitely makes me miss my family more.  

To feel not quite so far, I try to do all of the things my family would do around the same time.  I make my great grandma’s sugar cookie cut outs, listen to Bing Crosby, decorate my christmas tree the day after thanksgiving, watch White Christmas and make sure I get out to see the lights in town… just as I would do if my family were here.  While one could look at that and think it makes me feel farther, it makes me happy to know that we’re all doing the same Christmas-y things even if we aren’t in the same place.  I call them, too of course. 

3.) Haley: What kind of traditions do you have when you are away from your family? 

Gaby: Like I said before, a lot of my traditions will be the same as my families’. We always wait to start “Christmassing” until after Thanksgiving, we listen to pretty much only Christmas music until after the holiday, watch certain movies, go out and see the lights in town and make lots of fun family recipes.  Another great tradition that my family has adopted over the years is reading a specific book series during the Advent season.  I love to read these books even here on my own because I grew up listening to my mom read the stories aloud and they still remind me of what really matters this season: the gift of Jesus.  I have adopted a couple of my own traditions too, however, like making my own gingerbread, lighting far too many christmas candles, going to my university’s tree lighting ceremony and attending my church’s christmas show (which always features a live camel). 

4.) Haley: How has your relationship with your family affected you from the time differences? 

Gaby: I mean, I don’t think time difference specifically has affected our relationship.  I’ve definitely become a bit more independent with them being so far away but only because I had to.  We still talk as regularly as we can, I just call them in the morning (for me) and reach them before they go to bed (nighttime for them).  I still talk to them about important things in my life and talk to my mom about just about everything. 

5.) Haley: For people who are going through the same thing, what advice can you give to them? 

Gaby: Honestly, make the most of where you are.  Don’t wish away the time and moments you have because you wish you were somewhere else.  You never know what God has for you right now  in this beautiful season.  Also, just because your family may be far away, doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate Christmas like you usually do.  Just remember what the season is really about, because celebrating Jesus and His gift to us can be done anywhere you are. 

 

 

 

One on One with Hope: How to keep Christ at the center of your life while working a full time job

This week, I (Haley Martin) interviewed one of our blog writers, Hope Trossen, on how to keep Christ first in the midst of working a 40 hour a week job. Hope graduated from Liberty University several years ago, with a degree in Criminal Justice. I asked her just a few questions, so let us take a look at what she said.

Haley: Where do you work?

Hope: I’m a Security Guard at Walmart.

Haley: How do you make time intentionally each day for Jesus? 

Hope: It’s hard, especially with a schedule that changes daily. My job does not give me normal hours and it makes me feel more tired mentally and physically not having a set schedule. Honestly, at times, it does put a strain on my time with Jesus but my days are always better when I keep Him first. I try to spend time with him first thing in the mornings and I talk to Him on my long drive to and from work. I also spend time in prayer throughout my day. Talking to my Father should be easy, so that is how I make it. I pray whenever I can and wherever I am.

Haley: How do you represent Christ at your workplace? 

Hope: I try to be an encouragement to everyone I come in contact with whether it be a coworker, a customer, or even a shoplifter. I want them to see God in how I act and what I say. I let them talk to me and I try to be there to help. I always try to end a conversation with “I’m praying for you” and I make sure to actually pray for them. Some people really appreciate it, even the ones who are not believers are thankful.

Haley: Do you have any tips for college graduates on how to transition into a full time job and still keep Christ at the center of their life? 

Hope: If you do not keep God at the center of your life it will end up being 10 times harder. On days where I did not make time for Him or weeks where I have drifted from Him, they were some of the hardest to get through. If you keep Him at the center you will be able to get through anything that comes your way with a busy schedule.

These are just some tips from Hope on how to handle keeping Christ at the center while working a full time job. We hope these tips have encouraged you whether you work a full time job, or are at school. God can and will use you wherever He has placed you, so keep seeking after Him. Thank you Hope, for sharing some of your wisdom and a piece of your heart.

HOPE

(Pictured: Hope Trossen, Blog Writer)

 

An Abundance of Leftovers

It is that time of year again. It is the season of Thanksgiving and enjoying family, friends and good food.

I personally love this time of the year because it is cold which means you can wear big sweaters…which means you can also eat all the good food.

As I sat in church the other day, my pastor reminded me of thankfulness and most importantly thanking Jesus for what He has done for us. It may seem cliché to thank God, as if we have to slip that little phrase into each prayer we say, especially around Thanksgiving.

My pastor reminded me of the importance of having genuine thankfulness towards Jesus. I believe it is good and healthy to remind ourselves every day of what our salvation is to us. That Jesus lived a perfect life, died a terrible death and then resurrected. He defeated death and sin so that we may have life, eternally. This world would be nothing without meaning, and that meaning comes from Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin, to shame, to guilt. We are set free, as Galatians 5:1 talks about, so that we can live in freedom.

Thankfulness for Christ’s sacrifice should be an ever-constant in our lives. When was the last time you broke over your sin? As we get used to sin in our lives, or used to being free from things, we tend to forget the burden that it was until Jesus came along and freed us by His sacrifice. Jesus’ love is so incredible. As I write this, I cannot even think of the right words to describe His love. I know that I feel surrounded by it like it is one big fluffy blanket.  I feel secure knowing that when I feel like I am in the pit of darkness and loneliness,  He is still there and His love is ever-present.

I could go on forever explaining the how much Christ’s love has radically changed my life. Honestly, I will do that with my life and when I die, let my existence in Heaven forever be the undone song of praise and thanksgiving.

Another point I want to point out, to go with the theme of Thanksgiving, is the idea of leftovers. I am not talking about the food left over after the big feast, but rather the leftovers of worship. This convicted me so hard when my pastor mentioned this in church.

How many times do we come to church or start praying but we have already spent the majority of our time and mental energy on other things, even sinful things. So, when we go into worshipping and thanking Jesus, we are giving Him the scraps or leftovers of our time and energy. I have done this many times before, as church and daily devotional time can get monotonous.

I hate this within myself. The King who died for me, and died for you too, should never get monotonous, half-hearted worship. I say this out of my own conviction because I know those prayers I have prayed and those songs I have sung out of the feeling of duty, not worship.

Jesus, you deserve our everything. Not just one, or a couple days out of the year. You deserve it every second of every day.

Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we are still living in our fleshly bodies, in a fallen, dark world. From this, we will have an aspect of imperfection and we will fall to the monotony of worship. But fight it.

Know your place and know His place. A daily reminder is needed in all our lives to remain thankful with a full heart of worship and gratefulness. Remember Jesus’ sacrifice and abide in the love He has for you. It will never end or give up on you.

Thank Him for His unfailing love. Thank Him for His sacrifice. Just come, with a full heart, and thank Him.

 

We love you all and you are all constantly in our prayers!

During this holiday season, I know many people are going through hardships of many sorts. If you ever need anything, do not hesitate to reach out to us via message on Facebook or Instagram, or email at woventogetherministries@gmail.com.

 

For His glory,

 

Lauren

10 Ways to be More Thankful

Being thankful can sometimes be so hard, am I right? It is so easy to dwell in the negativity and choose to see the blessings that God has given us. In the spirit of Thanksgiving approaching, here are 10 tips I try to apply in my own life when I am trying to be more thankful.  These tips are absolutely not limited to this time of year though and can be applied all year long.

  1. Start your day off with prayer and reading your Bible. Just spend some time with God and Him alone. It is so easy to try to snag a few extra minutes of sleep, or go straight to your phone.  Instead, make a conscious effort to consistently start your day off by reading and talking to God.
  2. Do not look at your phone for the first 30 mins-1 hour when you first wake up. I got this idea from another blogger and started doing it this summer. Sometimes it is hard during the semester because I only wake up an hour or so before I have to leave, but I find myself in the days where I do this praising God for what He has blessed me with.  It is a welcome change from the constant scrolling and focusing on other’s lives more than my own.
  3. Listen to worship music while you are getting ready in the mornings. Many of you may be thinking that worship music would just put you back to sleep.  I felt this way for a long time because I used to listen to any type of secular music that would get me hype for my day.  However, instead of finding music that made me feel this way, I found when I listened to worship music I was more grateful for the things given to me and I was less irritable throughout my day.
  4.  Keep a blessings jar. It may sound silly at first, but last year my college gals and I did a bible study where the author encouraged us to keep a blessings jar. We all started doing it and would go back and look at our blessings whether they are big or small whenever we felt down. It is a small way to remember how faithful the Lord is to us. So grab a mason jar, some sticky notes and whenever a blessing comes your way write it down and stick it in the jar for later.
  5.  Start your prayers by thanking God.  This helps you to come before God with more than just a list of things for Him to do for you.  Instead, this brings you closer to Him by reminding yourself of how faithful God is.
  6.  Encourage others around you. So often in this culture of comparison, we can fall into self pity and discontent.  Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, let us go out and encourage someone who may be in a worse situation than we are. This will help us see how good God is and He will be able to bless us through blessing others.
  7. Go out of your way to serve someone. Pray and look for opportunities to go out of your way serve others. This could be as simple as helping an older lady take the groceries to her car, giving someone directions, lending money to a friend or putting your phone down and being a listening ear to someone who needs you.
  8. Turn the negative into positive. When your boss is yelling at you at work, thank God for a job. When your car is breaking down, be thankful you have a car. When your stressed out over school, be thankful you have an education. When you do not have a lot, be thankful for what you have. When you are single, be thankful for extra time with friends and the Lord.  It is all about perspective.
  9.  Be still. Take time to just be silent and still before the Lord. Let Him speak to your heart. Let him pour into you. For me, this looks like turning the music off when going to school in the mornings or work in the afternoons. Maybe it means getting up extra early to see the sunrise or going somewhere alone to watch the sunset.
  10. Give it to God and do not pick it back up. When you give your stresses, frustrations and struggles to the Lord do not turn back to it or pick it back up again. Just keep walking and let Him take care of it.

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” -1 Chronicles 16:34 

We hope these tips will help you find yourself in a season of continual thankfulness. Always remember, God is for you not against you! He loves you and wants the best for you.

-Haley

Founder of Woven Together

(With some added wisdom from Katie (Outreach Director) and Lauren (Co-Founder))

haley lauren katie

From Left to Right: Katie, Lauren and Haley

 

 

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

 

Your sin is causing the problem, not you

You Are Not the Problem—Sin is the Problem

You feel isolated in all of things you are bearing alone.

You feel the shame slowly creeping up to your heart, right about to overflow.

You feel guilt in the pit of your stomach.

You feel like the grasp of sadness around your whole body will never let up.

You may feel one, two, or all of these—keep reading. You are not alone.

 

I have made one of the biggest mistakes in life. I have been so absorbed within my own life, goals, aspirations, and success that I lost sight of everyone around me.

People are struggling. People are struggling and putting on a perfect appearance in order to keep a perfect dandy life for us. You may not realize it but there are so many people struggling on the inside.

People are struggling with the guilt, shame, sadness, bitterness, anxiety, and every other negative emotion because of the sin they struggle with. They think they are the problem but no; SIN is the problem.

They continue to blame themselves and they continue to allow their sin to define them. I am here to tell you right now; you are not the problem. I have been in your shoes before. The worst thing about struggling with a sin, is keeping it a secret and not telling anyone. Let me tell you, the truth will most definitely set you free (John 8:32).

Every sin that you have commited, Christ has paid it on the cross. HE PAID IT ALL. You are no longer a slave to your sin; you are no longer in bondage. You have been set free because God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for your sins (John 3:16). If you are a child of God, Jesus paid it all for you.

When Jesus was on that cross, He thought of you. He died for the murderer, the addict, pride, greed, lust, adultery, and the list goes on. You have been liberated from all of your sin. If you have given your life over to God, you have been set free from all of your sins. Once you have repented there is no need for shame, guilt, bitterness, sadness, etc.

I encourage you to talk to someone about what you are struggling with because you are not alone in this. God has surrounded you with brothers and sisters in Christ to walk with you through every step of the way.

Christians, it is time to take a stand. Open your eyes and hearts to the people around you. Ask them how they are doing and don’t always assume everything is perfect in someone’s life.

 

How to Help Someone Who is Struggling:

  1. Pray
  2. Show grace and mercy.
  3. And LOVE them.

Shells and Stones

“…..The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21

About a month ago my mom and I were walking the beach in Cape May, NJ looking for seashells to do a craft with. It was not your typical beach day – it was windy, the waves were crashing and we were wrapped up in sweatpants and sweatshirts. Definitely not sunny and 75, but I always say any beach day is a good day.

We did not have much luck finding seashells.  We found a couple keepers but the majority of our loot was pebbles. We ended up coming home with 2 grocery bags half-way filled with our treasures. That is exactly what those broken shells, pebbles and stones were: treasures.

Walking along the beach got me to thinking about how the ocean represents our God. I know that the ocean has been compared to God in numerous ways.  There is even a 7-minute song about it. What got me really thinking though was the concept of the ocean waves. The waves crash onto the shore leaving the treasures behind and then collecting them back.

The ocean delivers us seashells, some broken and some fully intact, along with some stones and rocks. God give us blessings like seashells and hardships like the stones. The seashells are treasured more because of their beauty and worth. We pray and hope for blessings to come our way and sometimes the Lord delivers, but sometimes he delivers stones and hardships. We need to understand that what the Lord delivers that is his plan.

In my life I have had many “seashells and stones” come my way. Some “seashells” or blessings would be a great supportive family, friends and great memories. I believe my greatest blessing would be allowing me to attend Liberty University and continue my education. I shared many great experiences, met some forever friends and got to experience things I never imagined I would.

As I said before, God gives and takes away and it was His plan for me to move back home while I still continued my education. While we were walking the beach, some shells stood out by themselves for us to pick up while others were concealed within a pile of stones and shells. Sometimes God gives us blessings but then sometimes we may have to do a little searching to find blessings. Sometimes blessings are disguised as hardships. A stone may have beauty all its own.

The Lord gives us hardships in our life, our stones. They may not be pretty.  They may be major rocks or tiny inconveniencing stones. A major rock or hardship in my life was my dad passing away. He passed away from massive heart attack at the age of 42. Even though I was young it still continues to be difficult for me to understand why God would choose this to happen to me. I wonder at times why He would allow me to cry, hurt and suffer. Even when we do not understand the pain we go through, continuing to trust God helps us keep our focus on Him.

The Lord is like the ocean in the sense that He gives us hardships and takes them away too, while He also gives us blessings and takes them away. We need to trust God that He may give us things we cannot handle to remind us to rely on Him and allow Him to handle the problems we may face. The Lord is faithful and He does not want to harm you, rather He is molding us daily into someone more like Him.

“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.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

 

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

 

Woven Together: Behind the logo

When the Lord placed the vision of Woven Together on my heart, I had no idea what to name this ministry. I have always had passion to share the gospel with my life, and the Lord gave me names of women He wanted on this team and that’s basically all the information I got other than I knew I was supposed to start in the beginning of 2017.

After meeting with the team, one of our team members, Faith, came up with the name Woven Together based out of Colossians 2:2, the Message version, which states…”I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery…”

In our culture today there is so much division, pain, and comparison through social media, that it is hard to remember how the body of Christ is truly meant to be Woven Together.

In Psalm 139:13, the author, David, writes on how we are made in Christ’s image. It states, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” This shows how we were uniquely made, being woven together by the Creator of the Universe. I do not know what you have been told, but you were made with a specific purpose. You were not an accident. God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you and He has placed you exactly where you should be right now. You may not feel like your purpose is as big as someone else but that is a lie resulting from comparison. Each of us have a huge purpose. Do not settle to not live out your purpose when you were created by an extraordinary God.

Once we fully grasp that God created us to live on purpose, on mission, and loves us fully for who we are, then we can truly live at peace with one another being Woven Together in every aspect of our lives.

We recently had a lovely graphic designer named Renn Bopp, create our new logo design. It has a W with a vine branch lying underneath. The W stands for Woven, as a symbol of how we are Woven Together. The meaning behind the branch comes from different passages of scripture.

In John 15, Jesus describes himself as a vine, God as the Gardener, and us (His followers) as the vines. He goes on to explain how branches have to be cut back sometimes in order to grow more which can be compared to the hard times in our life. Sometimes we go through hard seasons which is likened to the pruning of the branches.

Jesus goes on to say how we remain in Him and as we abide in Him we grow in Him. When we remain in Him we are filled with His love. When we remain in Him we grow closer to Him and as a result grow to be more like Him. When we are growing in Him then we will be able to fully love others. We can only be Woven Together and live in true peace with one another if we are remaining in Jesus. It is hard to love people when we are not finding our source of love in Jesus.

We firmly believe we can not be Woven Together without the love of Christ covering us. We can not love others well without first finding love in Jesus. Jesus is the one who will forever be the Prince of Peace, the one who brings unity to every situation, and brings his children together to learn and grow from one another.

21270970_268250910347313_871095343355797439_nOur message is simply that every woman who comes across our blog will know how much they are loved by Jesus. That nothing will ever satisfy us as Jesus does. That we can be unified with one another because God created us on purpose for a purpose. We are worth so much because He sent his Son to die for us. Jesus lived a perfect life on this earth with the mission to save souls that were lost. He came for the sinners, the outcasts, the unloved, and chose to pursue them. He lived a life of no sin and chose to die on the cross for our sin so that we could have freedom and eternal life in Him.

We were given freedom in Him to have forgiveness for our sins and not to use our freedom as a way to continue to sin but to grow in His mercy and grace. Our identity is in Christ and what He has done for us. We are not the things that have happened to us or the things we have done. We are free to love because we are freely loved. We are free to put down our insecurities, look past one another flaws, love others no matter what is in their past, how they treat us, but instead love as Christ has loved us and that is what will make us truly Woven Together.

 

 

-Haley Martin, Founder of Woven Together

 

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

 

Cover photo found from http://www.pexels.com