Selflessly Present

I have always been a morning person and honestly, I love it that way. Many days, I wake up before my other roommates. One particular day, I woke up early, sat outside and watch the sun come up, seeing God’s glory in the unfolding of a new day.  Meanwhile, I was reading my Bible and I was taken back by a thought. It amazes me that Jesus was sinless, like how did He do it? My particular thought was about the simple ways we hurt people and how Christ was the ultimate example of the right way to act.

I walk around with pride, anger, bitterness, and hidden motives often. Sometimes I see people and I get annoyed that they are needy or will not leave me alone. When Jesus saw people, He had compassion for them. One portion of scripture that I believe exemplifies this is Matthew 14:14, “As [Jesus] stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd, felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

The backstory to this verse is that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod and Jesus had just found out.  Jesus went away by Himself to grieve (which would be the healthy and normal thing to do). I tried to wrap my mind around the next part of the story because Jesus had grieved for a little while but was then thrust right back into ministry. The crowd was waiting on Him and immediately, as He saw them, He had compassion and started healing their sick.

This struck me deeply because I know when I go throughout my day, especially when I am having a really hard day, compassion for others is usually the last thing on my mind. Jesus, at one of the hardest points in His life up to that point, could have said He needed more time to grieve or that He was not feeling ministry that day. The Jesus that we put our faith in was so selfless in His way of living that He immediately started helping them when He stepped out of the boat.

I pray that God would awaken my heart to stop being so selfish and see people with compassion, no matter where I am at in life. Every time a person or crowd comes into my life is another opportunity for God to work a miracle through me. Yes, grieving and bad days have their place, but it comes to a point of holding on to that grief when one needs to let it go.

Jesus found time to be alone to rest and to grieve which is important for a healthy mindset in general. He also knew that His Father was His sustainer. God is the One who give rest and vital strength to keep going. God is our strength. He is the One who it mighty to save.  He is the one who gives us our manna every day to keep going.

As Jesus showed me this I saw myself in every-day life. How do I act towards people? When I am having a hard day, am I selfless or selfish? God is our provider and the One in whom we put our trust. He will provide strength and healing no matter what. We must not forget that our purpose on this earth is to represent the Gospel to the people around us.

This world needs Jesus.  It needs me, it needs you, it needs us Christians to realize the source of our identity, our strength, and our healing so that we can continue to step out and see people with compassion and share the Gospel.

Just like Jesus, realize the true source of your every-day strength and identity. Hard days will come and bad things will happen but cling to the One who is the author and perfecter of your Faith. He is able, He is with you.

With Love,

Lauren

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

 

 

Unashamed

This blog is going to be a different one. It is more of a challenge I have given to myself because of an experience that woke me up and a challenge I want to give everyone reading this.

About three weeks ago I had to go to an academy for work. I had been assigned to drive two coworkers with me. I was glad I could help out and I looked at it as an opportunity to share God with them. Where I work, there is a lot of negativity.  No one there is happy and I know there are some who do not know God and I wanted to change that.

The closer we got to the upcoming trip the more nervous I became. I started having selfish thoughts of what would they think of me. I was conflicted.  I cared more about offending them, wondering what their thoughts would be of me and what I had to say instead of having complete peace and confidence in sharing about my God, my Father and my Friend.

The second day of the trip, one of the girls told me that every time she goes on a road trip, no matter who she is with or where they go they would, she would always say a prayer for safety. She proceeded to say that it had slipped her mind to tell me the first day but it made me happy to know that she prayed.  While knowing that she knew God initially made me happy too, it also hit me in the gut with a little guilt.

I started thinking back and wondering if I came across as someone who was not a believer or someone who would judge her if she had asked the first day. All I knew was that I needed to make a change. I was more worried about myself and offending them rather than thinking about how I may offend God with my selfish thoughts, actions or lack of action.

A bible verse that has not left my thoughts since then is Matthew 10:33, which states, “But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”. I talk about God freely and openly when I am around my family, friends, church family and other believers I work with. I have even spoken to some non-believers about God and everything was fine, so why was this time different?

The difference was that I had begun to live more for man then I was for God. I cared more about what they thought about me instead of caring more about what God thought. The world does not make it easy these days to talk freely about Him because we so easily get shut down or judged.

This whole experience has opened my eyes significantly. I do not want to be nervous or scared when talking about God with people. I do not want to feel ashamed for loving God and speaking freely about Him. It should not be hard. It should not feel like a task, so I challenged myself with Matthew 5:16, which states, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

I want to be a light to everyone I come in contact with. I want them to see me, know that there is something different and know that the reason is God. The next time I feel that nudge to talk to someone about God I know I will not back down because I am not ashamed. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”.

God loves every one of us unconditionally. He loves me unconditionally. What better way to show we love Him back then to share Him with the people we come in contact with?

This is my challenge to anyone reading this:

  • If you do not know God and want to get to know Him, message any one of us on this team and we will gladly talk to you about Him.
  • If you are someone who knows God but you still have a lot of questions, then shoot us a message and we will do our best to answer any questions you have.
  • If you are someone that has felt the same way I did about a situation, past or present, I challenge you to speak to someone today about how amazing our God is.

 

Keep Romans 1:16 and Matthew 5:16 in the back of your mind. Be a light to everyone you come in contact with and know that God loves you, He is for you and He will never leave you.

-Hope

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

 

Real Rest

If you know me well, you know that I love my sleep. I look forward to uneventful Saturday mornings where I can sleep in and enjoy my morning coffee and have the freedom to extend it to afternoon coffee. I love my sleep and I love feeling rested. When deprived of anything less than a solid eight hours a night, I get worn down and I slow down. I know myself too well to know that I am incapable of my full potential if I am not fully giving myself what I need. Although I am talking about physical rest, I have learned in great depth that this similar concept of rest applies to our spiritual lives as well.

Throughout this past season, the Lord has been teaching me a whole new meaning of rest. A few months ago, I found myself in Hebrews chapter 4:12 where it says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Although I have read this verse many times and heard it more often than not, I was stopped by the verse that comes before which says, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” I’ll admit that I was not really understanding why a verse talking about the power of the Word followed an entire passage about the command and blessing of rest and Israelites not entering into that rest.

But then I realized: true rest is not getting enough sleep, having a week off school or work, or doing having nothing planned for an entire day. It is entering into the Word of God. Why else would Hebrews 4:12 say, “For the word of God…” succeeding an entire passage about one of the easiest yet most difficult commands given by the Lord: REST.

I think that in today’s society of immediacy and instant gratification, we only know one pace: fast. However, the Lord knows us too well to give us what we need, even when we don’t recognize what we need. Rest is what we need and it is what the Lord commands. Going back to Genesis, the first thing that the Lord did after He surveyed all of His creation was taking the seventh day to rest. If He did it, how much more should we practice it to the fullest on a regular basis? It shouldn’t be a suggestion. However, what is TRUE rest?

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For My yoke is easy and m burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

            TRUE rest is coming to Him and laying our burdens at His feet. Its knowing that He took our sin to the cross so that we would never have to. Its believing that we are incapable of anything on our own and that we need a Savior. Its realizing that nothing else but the Word of God will fully satisfy us.

When talking about theology of resting in God, Oswald Chambers wrote, “There are times when there is no storm or crisis in our lives, and we do all that is humanly possible. But it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to place our trust in Him, the crisis will reveal that we can go to the point of breaking, yet without breaking our confidence in Him.”

Who are you relying on? What type of rest are you running to? Because when storms do come, it will be our confidence, trust, and rest in Him that holds us 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

The Extraordinary Life

It was junior year, classes were hard and packed with information. So I did not understand why our professor took the time in our weekly class for us to read a poem about a bike. Little did I know, my perspective on life was about to change. The poem is by an unknown author, most links I found point it out as an excerpt from a book by Tim Hansel, but I included a link at the bottom of this webpage to read for yourself.

The poem talks about life as a tandem bike ride. As a Christian, when we give our lives to God, in the poem, He begins to lead the journey. The rider takes twists and turns that they never would have planned or imagined. These turns seem dangerous and exciting, as the rider learns to trust in God as the director of our lives.

I have ridden a tandem bike. They are really not fun and do not work well when you are trying to go one way while the leader is pointing in the other direction. Similarly, our lives are not our own.  Life is far too short and temporary to live anything less than in an extraordinary way. Try as we might, we could never accomplish that on our own. The roads are too rough and too far up ahead for us to know how it will all turn. Too many things are out of our control that we will exhaust ourselves of resources and sanity to keep up with all the little details. Thankfully, as Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that our lives are secure in the hands of the One who created the world, who created us and our journey, and loved us enough to sacrifice His only son (Colossians 1:17, John 3:16).

So many times we have our plan of how our lives are supposed to go. We like what is normal, what fits with our plan, how to mold our choices to fit our desires of how we think life is supposed to go. But then God throws us for a loop, the plan changes, and you can be left scrambling to pick up the pieces. You try to put them together of how you think they should go, or take rest in knowing he sees the big picture. When you trust God with all aspects of your life, the big and small, the unimaginable happens, and you get to partake in a grander adventure of love and life you could have come up with on your own.

Faith is not easy. It is hard to jump off the ledge of our own securities and ideas. But in the end it will be worth it, since we are secure and looking to Christ. When our eyes are fixed on Him, all the rest falls into the periphery.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~bsinger/roadlife.html

 

Embracing the gift I never wanted

Whether it’s been at a birthday party, a holiday, or from a well-meaning friend, we’ve all received a gift that we haven’t wanted. Our loved one gives it to us with the best intentions and we awkwardly smile as our voice goes up in pitch and we say, “Aww thanks, I love it!” Meanwhile in our minds we’re planning how we can re-gift this to someone or we’re praying that the gift receipt is included in the box. We’ve all done it at some point in our lives, but have you ever thought about if you’ve done that with a gift that the Lord has given you?

 

I definitely have. The Lord has given me lots of gifts over my lifetime. He’s given me the gift of a career doing what I love, good friends and family, the spiritual gifts of encouragement and teaching, and so many more. But there’s one gift He’s given me that I’ve always tried to return.

 

The gift of singleness.

 

Now, if you are reading this and you are single, you probably just rolled your eyes. But, bear with me here. I was that girl for 23 years of my life and sometimes I still am. I’ve been single my whole entire life and I have only ever been on four or five dates in my little over two decades of living. That might not seem like a big deal, but I went to Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian university which has the unofficial slogan by some of “ring by spring or your money back.” In fact among my closest friends, one of them just got married, two of them are engaged, and four of them are in a relationship. So with so many of my friends and people I went to school with either dating, planning their marriage, or establishing families, it is hard to not have some fear of missing out.

 

For the longest time, I hated being single. I felt incomplete because I did not have a man to talk to or go on dates with. I felt like my life was missing something and that I was less than my friends who had significant others. Since I never had a boyfriend and had only been on a handful of dates, I began to feel worthless and like something was wrong with me. Was I too ugly? Was my personality too much? Was I too fat? If I changed _________, would boys find me more attractive? I tried to find love in all the wrong places and I was basing my worth on the complete wrong thing.

 

Every December, I pray and ask the Lord to give me a word that defines the year. The word that the Lord laid on my heart this year was contentment. In 2017, I wanted to be content with who I was, where the Lord had me, and His plans for my future. As I have been pursuing this goal over the last month I realized one of the biggest barriers to my contentment was my relationship status. One night, I was laying in bed feeling upset because this guy that I liked wasn’t interested in me, when I felt the Lord speak to me. I realized that there is a chance that I might not ever get married and I could not keep on living the way that I was. I did not want to be a bitter woman years down the road because I was not married. On that night, I gave up my desire to be married and instead decided to embrace the gift of this season of singleness that the Lord has given me.

 

In 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Paul writes “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided.” After deciding to embrace my gift of being single, I realized how much I can be used by God in this season. Since I’m single, I can spend more time serving my church in areas I’m passionate about. Since I’m a single teacher, I also have more time to devote to my students which is my biggest mission field. I can spend my evenings engaging in community with other Christians. Those weekend nights that I spend dateless, I can spend them spending time with the Lord through Bible study in prayer. That’s not to say that if you’re married you can’t be used by God, you totally can! But, us single girls need to start embracing our unique position to live on mission!

 

Do I still want to get married? Absolutely. But now instead of focusing on trying to find a boyfriend or wishing my life out of this season, I’ve chosen to embrace it. I’ve chosen to pursue Jesus who is the true lover of my soul. One of my favorite verses Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When you are living and delighting in the Lord by spending time with Him and pursuing Him, the Lord will bless your desires. This means that maybe one day God will bless me with my desire to be a wife or He will change my desires to match His desire for me. When we are delighting in Jesus, we are constantly being molded and shaped to conform to His vision of our life.

 

There are some days where I still struggle with being single. But I definitely can say that I’m living a more fuller life since I have decided to surrender my desires and pursue the Lord instead of boys. After all, the Lord will love me way more than any other earthly man. A man will never complete me, only Jesus can. If I’m not satisfied in Christ’s love now, I won’t be satisfied in Christ’s love when I’m married. If you are single and struggling, please know that your worth is found in Christ and not your relationship status. Your life is not worth less because you are single. Embrace this season and start living it out for Christ. You never know what He has for you, but I can promise that it is “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

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

Dealing with disappointment

I will admit to you right off that bat that this post has been really hard for me to write. Not because I have not come up with anything to say or because I am afraid no one will connect with it, but simply because what I am writing about is a daily battle for my heart and mind. This is not something I have even come close to overcoming, but with God’s sweet grace and comfort I know that I am not alone. (Praise Him for the Body!)

Disappointment. It is a sharp tool that the enemy loves to use to try and get me to stop trusting God.    And wow, let me tell you, it works.  More often than not in this last year, I have found myself feeling disappointed in my life’s circumstances because I had thought things were supposed to go one way and then life did a 180. I had felt qualified and even deserving of certain opportunities, but slowly watched with a hurt heart as doors closed with no chance of even fitting a sheet of paper in the doorway.

Time after time I felt like the world was out to get me and that no one had ever understood the pain of rejection in the way I was feeling. It was hard for me to celebrate the open doors that my friends and family had, and I certainly wasn’t even looking in the direction of my open doors. All I could do was look at the ones that were closed and feel as if the Lord had lost interest in me, like my plans were on halt so that I could be everyone else’s cheerleader. I knew He had plans for me, but what happened to them? Why did it seem like suddenly they were gone?

It was not until I had had enough of my “pity party for one” that my mind was still enough to hear the Lord speak. He told me in His word to  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:1-4).

All this time I had spent wondering where my plans were, and why they had not seemed clear, I was not delighting myself in the Lord. I was so bent on my own plans and ways that I lost sight of the One who holds me and cherishes me. One part of this scripture that I kept getting stuck on was the “wait patiently” part. Oh, how I did not want to do that! I felt like I had been waiting for so long for something, anything, good.  He told to hold on just a little longer, and with The Lords strength I did – and God showed up big time. He provided me with an incredible opportunity to serve Him on my college campus and He restored my stubborn heart. None of this happened, however, until I surrendered my own plans to Him and submitted to His will.

So what the Lord is still teaching me in this season is that disappointment is not something that “happens to me”, rather it is a posture and attitude that I have allowed into my soul that pulls me further from the heart and will of God. Disappointment is a product of a controlling spirit and a mind bent on one’s own purposes. The saddest part is that it always leaves me feeling empty and more withdrawn from those around me who just want to help. This thing only ever has one outcome, in which there is no freedom. It leads you to resent others and grow seeds of bitterness towards them, while also blinding you from seeing the blessings that God has already given you.

So what should we do when we find ourselves feeling disappointed? Here are a few things:

  1. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY. – In any situation prayer must always be our first response. Pray that the Lord would show you the parts of your heart that may not be in sync with His will or truth. Make amends with those you may have hard feelings towards, and then pray for restoration and comfort. God is the author of gentleness and comfort and He is always waiting to provide these things to us.
  2. Make lists of things that the Lord has blessed you with be it a job, your loved ones, etc. Thank Him for the breath in your lungs and the health in your bones. All of these are beautiful gifts worth celebrating!
  3. Realize that trusting God does not require Him to give you the play-by-play. It is not called trust for no reason. Allow healing to happen by letting go of the plans that you think you may have. I promise you that Gods plans are way better. Trust Him without any strings attached and watch the beauty of His love for you unfold!
  4. Connect with others in the Body who will help point you back to the truth. Your brothers and sisters in Christ may be able to help you see your situation from a different angle.

 

Disappointment is absolutely a real struggle and can cause a lot of pain, and I am still struggling with it even as I write this to you. But if there is one thing that I have truly learned in this season it is this:

Jesus did not die and rise from the grave so that I would be crippled by rejection or disappointment. He died so that I would be free to live in the promises of His goodness; free to love others for their giftings and opportunities while accepting my own with thanksgiving and humility; free to fully enjoy my grace-soaked life with my Jesus.

Many blessings and kind love,

Holly M.

 

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