Faith Worked Out: Coralie Tomlinson

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Introducing our newest Faith Worked Out interviewee: Coralie Tomlinson! Married with 4 children, Coralie lives and works in the North West and has shared so much wisdom with More Precious today. I have absolutely loved reading about Coralie’s journey of faith and the lessons she’s learnt, and think I might print out the advice in her last answer and pin it to my wall forever… You will love this interview! Lucy x 

CT Fun Five!

Fun Five!

Book on my bedside table:
Cook book of some description

Ideal dinner party guest:
William Wilberforce or Michelle Obama

Habit I wish I could stop:
Starting a new project late at night

Place on Earth most like Heaven:
Anywhere in the Caribbean

Fictional character I’d most like to be:
Margaret Hale (North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell)

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Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what do you do, and how did you come to know Jesus?

Originally from Dublin, followed by university in Scotland, I spent a year working in Germany, then joined an IFES team in Poland supporting the pioneering Polish Christian Student Movement, before being invited* to work with an American Private Equity fund in Poland. I then had the opportunity* to move to London to work for Ernst and Young, followed by JP Morgan investment bank for 10 years.

After the birth of my second child, I was keen to have more control over my working week and left the City to start my own confectionery business, when the opportunity* to purchase 2 existing brands presented itself to me. I was able to develop the business to the point where another opportunity* presented itself and 6 years later sold the brands to a large UK confectionery company who approached me with a purchase offer. I am currently working on new business plans.

* For clarity, there is no doubt in my mind that these were all God-incidences!

I had the enormous privilege of growing up in a Christian family with active, gospel-hearted parents, so have never doubted the gospel message but would say that my personal moment of conviction came at a Scripture Union camp aged 12 and I have stuck with Him every since.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t really have a typical day or week but I have just achieved a major milestone in that all my children are now at school, so generally my day is framed by school runs, numerous extra-curricular activities, and various church-related commitments into the middle of which I am aiming to squeeze the equivalent of a 3 day working week.

How do you try to keep God at the centre of your day to day life?

By actively seeking to be content with my lot, conscious of God’s sovereignty and providence in everything life throws at me, and by seeking to have a gospel mindset towards my non-Christian friends. Praying about the day ahead when I wake up. Having Bibles in different places round the house as a tangible memory jolt. Belonging to a local bible-preaching and believing church which never ceases to encourage and teach its members to live whole hearted Gospel lives and spurs us all on together through both the good and the testing times.

Was there a time in your life when you found it particularly hard to keep God at the centre? What encouraged you to keep pursuing Him?

Generally no, but looking back, arguably you could say one summer at university when I allowed myself to be distracted by a non-Christian relationship whilst working abroad doing a fun job, with a fun group of people. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage comes to mind, but at the end of the summer, I knew I had let myself slip. Although I did return to the same employment the following summer I didn’t allow the distraction to happen again, though I could have! Fortunately my conscience wouldn’t let me a second time and my resolve held. It was a valuable lesson in how easy it can be to lose eternal focus for short-term satisfaction and gain.

As a Christian, what do you find most challenging about your work?

I have loved the great variety of things I’ve been able to spend my time doing throughout my career since leaving university. I’ve had enormous privileges and opportunities, none of which I take lightly.

However through it all, I have been very conscious of God’s hand being in everything that has presented itself to me, and when I haven’t felt that something was His will, I have not pursued it. This was most poignant right at the start, when I turned down a job in the UK which humanly speaking I would love to have done, and on paper looked right for me, to take up the offer to go to Poland to work with the IFES movement. At the time, I had complete conviction that I had to do what seemed to be the harder thing and forfeit the ‘obvious’ career step. I never for one moment regretted this decision, and I was very sure it was what I was meant to do.

As time went on and my career subsequently unfolded, it became so clear in retrospect that in fact it had been the best decision I could ever have made, as it opened the door to so many things that could never have happened in my career otherwise. In retrospect, it also felt like the Lord was blessing me beyond my expectations, for that tiny leap of faith into the unknown at the start.

Were there specific lessons that you learnt whilst working in the City?

I don’t think the City is any worse or any better than other working environments for a Christian, though it’s such an easy target, and a well-trotted out mantra to talk about bankers’ excesses. Like any working environment, there are nice people and not so nice people! As a Christian, if you have a clear understanding of who you are, who you belong to, and where you’re ultimately going, that’s incredibly freeing and directional and it allows you to give your best whilst not being overly aspirational or grasping.

So, whilst I’ve generally sought to give my best, to progress ‘up the ladder’, given myself targets to achieve, and wanted to be successful, those things have not been the ‘be all and end all’ of my working life, though they could so easily have been. Because I’ve always trusted in God’s providence, and believed that I am for that moment, where God wants me to be, I have simply tried to work hard, and give my best to my employer and the colleagues around me. Obviously it’s important to make sure you embody the principles you represent – so, for example, being reliably (but not annoyingly!) cheery, being a good friend, and an easy colleague to work with, as opposed to someone who is difficult to be around, not a complainer!

Equally, having a measured sense of value – so, for example, whilst most of my colleagues presented our bosses with their individual annual bonus targets, I didn’t. I wasn’t necessarily conscious of not gossiping about my colleagues, but I didn’t gossip. I only became conscious of this, when one of my friends pointed it out to me! If you steep yourself in Scripture and know what the Lord requires of you, it becomes less and less challenging to want to do the opposite, and becomes more second-nature.

When life is busy, how do you make time for rest and space with God?

There is no easy answer to this. You need to understand yourself and what works best for you, as well as recognising what life stage you are in. What I did in my twenties was a lot different to what I can do now in my forties and this too will pass. Knowing that God is our Father, and remembering that He knows us better than we know ourselves helps. Hence not beating myself up when I compare my failed walk with another’s successful walk or when life is full and busy or things feel particularly stressed.

Reflecting on a Psalm and echoing the psalmist’s cries can be hugely helpful. Keeping it simple can also be helpful. Reading a few Bible verses is better than not reading any at all. Better to read a few verses, than not start at all because you know you don’t have time to finish reading all of Romans today.

At key decision points, I have found it helpful to get out in to nature somewhere – walking alone by the sea or in the countryside. Since moving to the countryside, the latter is much easier for me! I’ve found it helpful to get very early and go out with the dog for a walk before the rest of the household is awake so that I can pray and meditate. When I lived in London, going for a reflective walk on my own in a huge park or by the Thames worked, as did using my daily Tube commute time.

How would you encourage girls who are at a bit of a crossroads in their life, or about to face new challenges at school, university or work, and are unsure of the best way to serve God passionately and whole-heartedly?

Pray earnestly that His plans would be revealed in His timing – and mean it: i.e being accepting of the outcome; wait patiently whilst this is happening but don’t do nothing whilst you are waiting – actively pursue opportunities and allow Him to shut the wrong doors and open the right ones;

Be honest with yourself about and thankful for your talents and abilities and make sure you are putting them to good use; don’t wish you had someone else’s life – live your own one to its full potential;

Remember you might be the only Christian your friend/work colleague ever encounters.

Keep eternity as your goal and seek to be content accepting His will for whatever happens in between.

Above all be wholehearted in whatever you do – don’t settle for mediocrity, or second best – ever!

A huge thank you to Coralie for such an energising and inspiring interview! For our MP girls, we’re praying you’d be propelled to be wholehearted in all you do, and to keep eternity as your goal!

Faith of an Encourager

Devotionals Mason Jars

A faith that hopes. (Hebrews 6:9)

We can encourage others not just with our words and actions, but also by living our lives in a way that shows the people around us that we are hoping in Jesus, and trusting in him alone.

I know that for me, some of the most powerful moments of encouragement in my own faith haven’t just come from words someone has said to me, but by the way someone has lived their life hoping in God. I look at the way that friends like Hannie keep on trusting in Jesus, even when things are painful and hard, and I am encouraged in my own faith, because I see that living for God is worth it.

If we choose to recognise God’s goodness and sovereignty even in the most difficult chapters of our lives, we can encourage others to realise what this same promise means for their own lives. Matthew 5:16 says this (MSG version):

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

It can be really, really hard to put Jesus first all the time – and we shouldn’t be discouraged when we inevitably fall short (that’s where grace kicks in!). But wouldn’t it be wonderful to try and live so clearly for Jesus that we end up encouraging others by the faith that we have, and pointing them to the hope we have. Point to hope, bring light, and be an encourager!

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Like A Shadow

As you read this you are losing something;
something that you will never be able to get back.
Time.

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Last week I went to see ‘The Theory of Everything’, a look into the life of Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Stephen Hawking’s whole life has revolved around time. He was diagnosed with ALS aged 21 in 1963, and was given 2 years to live. The film shows how, despite this diagnosis, Hawking was determined to make the little time he had left mean something. One thing the film pressed upon me was just how fleeting time is. Even huge aspects of a person’s life can be summarised so quickly: those 60 years were covered in two hours.

This is a sentiment shared by the Bible. When I looked it up, I was surprised to find so many verses that talk about how short our time is.

‘My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.’
(Psalm 102:11)

‘Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.’
(Psalm 144:4)

‘Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window.’
(Hosea 3:13)

One verse I am always drawn to is James 4:14:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Life is too short to be waiting. Things in this world are passing away so quickly, like the mist that appears for a short while and vanishes. This is not saying that we shouldn’t be planning for the future, but instead presses upon us the urgency of making the most of the time we have.

Knowledge of this changes how we live our lives. Stephen Hawking is a good example of this. After he was diagnosed with ALS he was given two years to live. The knowledge of how little time he might have spurred him on to work harder and as a result he produced some of the best work of his life – work that has changed the way people view the world.

Jesus was only 33 years old when he died. His ministry only lasted three years – but he managed to get a lot done in that time! He didn’t put off the things God wanted him to do, or say ‘I’ll get around to it tomorrow.’ He took action when it was needed because he knew that he would not get another chance to. We need apply the same knowledge to our own lives.

Is there something that you know God wants you to do but have been putting off? Now is the time to do it. Eternity is long, but our life on this earth is too short to be waiting – we need to make the minutes we have on earth count for something meaningful. Let the knowledge of our short time encourage you to work harder to become the person God wants you to be. Then you will be able to stand before Christ proudly, knowing that you did not run or labour in vain (Philippians 2:16).

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s posts.

 

Heart of an Encourager

Devotionals Rasps

A heart that loves. (John 13:34-35)
A new command I give you: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

These verses make it clear how important love is in God’s eyes. God loves us, and we therefore should try to love each other, just as He continues to love us. It is one way that we can show the world that we are children of God – radical, countercultural love.

But why do we find this hard? I know in my heart, often I am so obsessed with myself, and loving myself well and putting myself first that I often become selfish and forget about God’s vast love for me – leaving no room at all for loving others. But isn’t Proverbs 11:25 interesting?

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

By cultivating a heart that is generous, selfless and ‘refreshing’ to others, we ourselves benefit and are refreshed! We aren’t actually designed to put ourselves at the centre of our worlds. We are wired to worship God, and put Him first – and if we are secure in this identity, our hearts will become more like Jesus, and we will be better at loving and encouraging the people around us.

Why don’t we make this week one where we meditate each day on God’s great love for us, cultivating a heart that thinks of others before ourselves. Let’s pray that we might be selflessly refreshing others, motivated by the great and vast love of our Heavenly Father.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Actions of an Encourager

Devotionals White Flowers

Actions that value others (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.

So many of the girls who have written for More Precious are especially good at encouraging others and building them up; not only with words, but also with their actions. I take great inspiration from Hannah and from Jessie, who are both so quick to send little gifts or write messages of encouragement to show people they appreciate them; and from my sister Mia, whose art of letter writing featured in one of the first ever More Precious posts!

We also see in the Bible that Jesus’ life on earth is defined by actions that love other people, build them up, and put them first. You too can be a great source of encouragement in the lives of people around you by living like Jesus: loving God first and foremost, and loving others before yourself.

Father God,
Please help us to see ways in which we can encourage the people in our lives with our actions. Help us not to think of ourselves first, but to want to honour You and put others first instead. Open our eyes to the times when we are selfish, and give us a heart for building up other people with our words and our actions.
Amen.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Faith Worked Out: Pippa Gumbel

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It is a real honour for us to be interviewing Pippa Gumbel today, a wonderful woman whose work with her husband Nicky through Holy Trinity Brompton church, the Alpha Course and the Bible In One Year initiative has inspired many thousands to grow in their relationship with God. We hope you are encouraged by this newest addition to Faith Worked Out! XO 

Pippa

Fun Five

Fun Five

Quality I’d most like to have:
Better organisational skills

Ideal dinner guest:
Mary, the mother of Jesus

£10 treat: Some Green and Black’s 70% chocolate

Habit I wish I could stop:
Eating too much chocolate…

Book on bedside table:
Row For Freedom by Julia Immonen

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Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become a Christian?

I had been to a Convent school but religion didn’t really affect my life. When I was 18 I was with a friend wanting to get into a nightclub and needing a member to get me in. She gave me Nicky Gumbel’s telephone number. I rang him up and he invited me round and we became friends. He went off to Cambridge and in his second term he became a Christian. I met him again and he said to me that I looked awful and I needed Jesus! I thought he had gone mad.

A short while later, I met a group of young people who were running a fun restaurant in Central London and started going there, not knowing that they were all Christians. There was good music, wonderful homemade food and a compelling atmosphere. Over time they started explaining to me about their faith and showed me John 10:10 in the Bible; ‘I came that you might have life and life in all its fullness…’ and my life seemed very shallow and empty and this life so appealing. That’s when I gave my life to Christ.

Were there times in your life when you have found it hard to live for Jesus? How did you keep your faith during these times?

When I first became a Christian I had lots of ups and downs as my priorities began to change and as I learned that God’s ways are always much better than ours. These new Christian friends & eventually the church community, were very patient with me, praying with me, encouraging me and were always there to bring me back on track.

How have you learnt to trust God with your decision-making and plans for the future?

When I was young I wanted to marry a farmer and have a horse! When I married Nicky he was training to become a barrister but even then, he was very involved with the church. However, I never would have thought I would have ended up being involved in running a large church in Central London, which I absolutely love.

There are always different seasons of life which means new opportunities to trust God. When there have been big changes of life, we have taken time out to pray. but we are also constantly stretched by the decisions that need to be made daily in such a big organisation. We make many mistakes and are always in need of God’s guidance.

We love the Bible In One Year App! How would you encourage girls that find it hard to approach the Bible?

Nicky is so disciplined and I don’t think in all the years I have been married to him he has missed a day of reading of the Bible. I am much less organised! There are times when I struggle with making enough time. We love doing the Bible in One Year but on some days, I only get time to read the Psalm! I have found it helpful to listen to David Suchet’s reading of the whole Bible which is a free app and which is one way of at least hearing the bible. Reading The Message version of the Bible is also helpful for a fresh insight.

For girls who don’t have access to mentor figures in their life, how would you encourage them to keep pursuing relationship with God in deeper ways?

There are so many wonderful talks that we can download but we need one another and to be able to work out our faith in a community. I would advise praying and trying to find someone you respect who would support you.

How do you stay excited and passionate about life with Jesus, even when you have been a Christian for a long time?

I love being in an Alpha small group and watching people’s lives change. There is nothing more exciting. I also love worship and getting to a conference to hear new and inspiring speakers.

When life is busy, how do you make time for rest and space with God?

I love walking in Hyde Park enjoying God’s creation and just ‘being’ with God and not feeling that I have to be ‘doing’ anything.

Advice you would give your 13 year old self?

I didn’t know that there was a God who really did love me and had a purpose for my life. At that particular age when I was full of insecurities, an experience of God’s love and knowledge of His total acceptance would have really helped. I would also say that the importance of church and Christian friends is invaluable.

A very big thank you to Pippa for being part of
More Precious this morning – we are inspired!

Words of an Encourager

Devotionals Tea Flowers

Words that build up (Ephesians 4:29)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

As Christians, we should aim to bring glory to God in all we do, and this applies to the words we speak. In situations where we are surrounded by damaging words and harmful gossip, we can be the light by countering destructive words with compassion, humility and love (1 Peter 3:8). Sometimes we are tempted to join in with certain kinds of conversations to protect ourselves from standing out; it’s tempting and easy to join in with gossip, or make jokes at the expense of others. I know that sometimes I do this if I’m jealous of other people, or if I want to try and look funny, smart or popular.

But, it’s right that we glorify God, and this means we should display His light and love in the words we speak. So what does this look like? Well, the bible tells us to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). What a challenge for us as we start the week ahead!


Father God,
Please give us courage to speak in a way that is honouring to You, even when we have to step outside our comfort zones to do so. Please give us the courage to speak words of encouragement to the people in our lives, and be a light for You as we do so.
Amen.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Found By Grace: Lettie

Introducing a very beautiful and honest reflection of one girl’s journey back to Jesus. Lettie is sharing her testimony for More Precious this morning and we are honoured! For all you feeling unsure or not-quite-good-enough in your relationship with God, allow Lettie’s story to remind you of the unconditional nature of grace.

I finally feel ready to write my testimony, and what better place to share it than More Precious! I’ve hesitated for so long in writing this, because I haven’t felt ‘ready’ or ‘enough’ (firm enough, strong enough, Christian enough, good enough) to write it. However, the fundamental truth that I have come to know is that I am always ‘enough’ in the eyes of God.

I was raised a Christian, going with my Dad to Church every Sunday until I was about seven. However, my family stopped going regularly to church, and my faith slowly fell away. I got to that age where it was ‘cool’ to declare yourself an atheist – rebellious and supercilious.

I say supercilious, because I hadn’t actually considered Christianity. Whilst having had a ‘Christian upbringing’, no one had really led me in my faith, shown me the promises of Jesus, or explained how or why to read the Bible. In all honesty, I didn’t know a whole lot about my professed faith, so it was easy to reject.

My path back to Jesus has been a long one.

I had many difficulties through my teenage years, the residual effects I still feel now, having suffered from depression for a long time. One night when I was about fourteen, I was really struggling, and I ended up praying to a God that I didn’t think I believed in – that if He was real, to give me a sign. I couldn’t explain it, but despite the depression and darkness of the night before, the next day I woke up filled with amazement at the world, its beauty, and my gratitude at being alive in it. I promised myself there and then that I would commit myself to God.

The problem was, I still didn’t really understand what Christianity was all about. I thought praying meant saying the Lord’s Prayer every morning. I thought when you read the Bible you started from Genesis and read it chronologically. By all means, if this is how you best connect with God, it’s a perfectly valid way of worship, but for me, I was just going through the motions.

I was desperately seeking God, I believed in God, but I didn’t know how to connect with Him. I did get confirmed near the end of that year, and I kept persevering in my faith, but eventually, once again, I walked away.

As my depression deepened, I stopped thinking about God entirely. I turned my back on Him because what could He do? If He was all loving why did He give me depression in the first place?

I wrestled with the darkness for two more years, before I reached rock bottom: I took an overdose. The morning after, when I woke up in hospital, I felt overwhelmingly guilty: I was God’s creation; He loved me; yet I was hurting myself repetitively. It took me months to get to a more stable place in recovery from depression and an eating disorder to where I was able to start thinking about my faith again. I had a friend, Mia, who invited me to her Church over and over again, and I kept saying ‘I’ll think about it,’ putting it off, because it was still all too painful and hard.

One week, about a year ago, I finally decided to go along to church. I was overwhelmed – the joy and love the congregation exuded was so encouraging. I felt God’s presence and peace for the first time in a long while. God slowly started to become part of my life again, over a period of months. I prayed sporadically, I went to Church when I could, and I once again counted myself as a Christian.

However, I still hadn’t grasped God’s grace,
and what Jesus dying on the cross for us meant.

Even in April this year, I hit yet another stumbling block. I went away to New Zealand for two months and did a lot of things I regret. I definitely turned my back on God.Once I got to Durham, I knew I had to sort myself out. I went to church the first Sunday I arrived, before Freshers’ Week even started. I re-committed myself to God, and He has done amazing things in my life since I’ve been here.

What has become clear is how steadfastly and deeply God wants me and loves me, that however many times in my life I’ve walked away from Him, He’s pulled me back close.

He has forgiven me.

I am finally grasping the amazing thing God has done for us by sending his son to die on the cross: we are saved, forgiven and free.
This miracle overwhelms me each day.

I am so bursting full of God’s grace and love, and I have such a passion to share this with people. Thankfully, Durham is well equipped to spread the gospel, and I’ve been able to get involved in Club Mission, Contact Café, DICCU weekend away, the carol service, King’s Church Outreach, and so on. I’ve joined a cell group at Church and I’ve (finally!) started reading the Bible in a productive and enlightening manner.

I’ve learnt that there is always another chance with God- that He will always want you back, and that He is always there, even when you don’t think you can feel it.

It says in James 1: 2-6:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

This is the scripture I always return to. The difficulties I’ve been through have strengthened my faith and given me perseverance, and my faith is so much stronger, deeper, and truer than it would have been otherwise. God has given generously to me and He can to you too, for he gives ‘generously to all without finding fault.’

I am no longer the doubting girl being blown and tossed by the wind,
but I believe and stand firm in God.

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Lettie

Lettie is a first year English Literature student at Durham. Her aim this year is to try out all the cafes in Durham! Lettie loves social justice and helps run Mary’s College Feminist Society. She’s passionate about spreading the message that God’s love doesn’t discriminate, and is super excited to see more people get to know Jesus through MP.

Faith Worked Out: Ali Gillum

Faith Worked Out
As Christian girls growing up, decision making is at every corner – and it can sometimes be hard to see how faith and ‘normal life’ can fit together, let alone how our faith can be at the centre of all we do. How can we live as Christian girls in all sorts of different contexts? Back in November, we launched our Faith Worked Out series, to try and answer these questions through a series of interviews with women from all paths of life.

Today we’re delighted to be speaking with Ali Gillum, a recent Exeter graduate who founded Macaw Designs while still at university. I did Ali’s interview back in September of last year, but her words have stayed in my mind ever since – it speaks for itself! L x

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Fun Five

Fun Five

Habit I wish I could stop: Saying “yea yea yea” whenever I agree with someone! It’s meant to be enthusiastic but I think it’s quite annoying!

£10 Treat: Eyelash tint

Fictional character I’d most like to be: Winnie the Pooh…he’s pretty chilled.

Thing in my handbag I never use:
Umbrella – I only like the big ones!

Book on bedside table:
Row for Freedom, Julia Immonen

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Tell us where you’re at right now, and how you got here…

I graduated from Exeter this summer after studying Geography and Theology there. I now have a job as an Account Manager at Born Social, though I spent some time in India this summer before moving to back to London.

What or who were your biggest influences on your faith when growing up?

Definitely my youth leaders: their role was showing, in a very attractive way, how to live in culture distinctively as a Christian. My Mum and Dad too, they live out faith in a really practical way, always bringing people into their faith, and into our family. Growing up, people from all walks of life were hanging out in our home – and this taught me that God’s people are diverse and unique.

Church community and world was also a huge part, providing community and teaching me how to DO LIFE well in community. HTB is very good at working things out together, as was my church in Exeter (Exeter Network Church). Also – camps were amazing for me as I was growing up!

What did you find hardest about growing up as a Christian?

I was actually really lucky in that I had amazing friends, and a relatively easy community throughout my teenage years.

I suppose the hardest part of growing up is often figuring out who you are. So, it becomes difficult to work out how to live both within a ‘Christian world’ – i.e. within the church circle, and also in all other spheres of life: consistency and integrity are very hard to grasp when you aren’t always even sure of your own identity.

How have you learnt to grasp that consistency and integrity in every sphere of your life?

I’m still learning! I always think back to that Christian cliché: it’s about trying not to be a thermometer, but instead to be a thermostat – shape the environment you’re in, and don’t be shaped by it!

This is even true within church: don’t just be like everyone else, but commit to worshipping God and pursuing relationship with Him. Identity isn’t about being exactly the same type of person in every situation – because different situations will call upon certain parts of your personality and your gifts and skills. Instead, I think your identity comes from your place of security in God.

You will have integrity and be consistent if your identity overflows from security in who you are as a child of God. However – I am still very much working this out!

What pushed you to start Macaw Designs?

Well, Macaw Designs was kind of an accident! I had been making laptop cases for friends and family, and then it became friends-of-friends, and gradually the demand increased, and Macaw was born! Exeter has a real culture of entrepreneurship, and this helped hugely as I started to work on shaping Macaw as a business, in creating a website, factory and up scaling the whole thing.

What have you found hardest about the Macaw journey?

Doing it by myself – I’ve found that hard. I’m a girl that bounces ideas off people, so it has been lonely working without others. But I’m really excited that I’ve got someone else on board now, Tabs. She’s amazing and it’s so fun doing it with someone else. The other hardest thing is a never-ending list of things to do!

How have you grown in your faith over the past year, with all this change? What lessons have you learnt?

I HATE change! But actually that has been a lesson in itself. I’ve learnt that God calls us not just to endure change, or to ‘get though – but to learn while IN IT, rather than always in retrospect.

I am learning to not just look back and point out my learnt lessons by saying ‘I was’ but rather ‘I am’ and ‘I will’. The Christian life is one of transformation and change by nature, and I am learning to learn in the seasons of change and chaos.

Another key thing I have learnt is to be strategic about who I share what with: I can’t keep up with everyone! I have learnt how important it is to have a few key people to invest in and spend time with in a healthy way. It’s a personality thing, but I have learnt that knowing loads of people isn’t always that healthy… it’s cool in our culture, but ultimately not very attainable or fulfilling.

When things are busy, how do you prioritise your relationship with God?

The first thing I would say is don’t go on about how busy you are all the time. It overwhelms you the more you say it, and it is boring for everyone else! If we really do feel too busy, either we can take on less, or be thankful for the opportunities we have in our hands. Everyone’s capacities are different, but for some reason our culture loves being busy. Be different! Be industrious, but don’t be busy. Be present wherever you are. It is dangerous to be seen as a ‘busy person’ at the expense of relationships, or more worthwhile, tangible investments.

When more things are happening in a particular season of your life, I would say make time for God FIRST THING – I know that I can’t face a day without that reaffirming of identity and purpose.

Also practically: exercise, sleep, and eat well. Look after your body, but more importantly – look after your soul by resting in God each morning. The busier you are, the more time you need to spend praying, and immersing yourself in God’s love and promises in the Bible every single day.

My last tip would be – don’t panic if you’re not busy. Be ‘awkwardly free’! Many exciting things can happen if you have the space and parameters to listen, take opportunities, and be spontaneous.

How can we use our gifts and passions for God? How do we know the best way to do this?

Again, this is something hard and different for everyone – but in working out what we can do for God, I would say: do something that excites you. Not just surface-level excitement, but gut-level – something that you are passionate about and that resonates with you. Also having a big picture of your calling (to build God’s kingdom on Earth and to tell the world about Him) is amazing – but we do build up this big picture in the every day and the mundane.

I remember being at school, and hearing these amazing speakers doing incredible things – and being so frustrated that I wasn’t able to be at that stage yet – I was stuck as a schoolgirl. I would say, do look ahead, do think about the future, but more importantly live in the moment and search for opportunities right where you are – there will be some!

So, how can we be ambitious for God?

There are definitely those things at school or at uni that seem very normal and boring – perhaps our lives are looking a little too ‘small’ and average for our liking. However, God uses us in every situation, so don’t think these are too small for Him to use you in.

It’s a bit like training a puppy – we don’t want to be in training and lose all of our excitement and ambition, but we want to channel it, and ask God to use us so that we can employ our gifts, skills and passions for His purpose. This can be in the small!

God doesn’t quite match to the timing of our ready-made, microwave society: He works in HIS time, and He has a bigger plan and picture. This really is a security, even if it is hard to hear (and different to the ‘be the best for yourself’ mentality we are often brought up with in school or at uni).

I would say: let go of control, be dependant, and recognise that God’s plans are greater than ours. We don’t need to be doing groundbreaking work, setting up charities or saving the world from poverty to be doing work for God: there is a real place and reward in Heaven for humble, quiet, behind-the-scenes work – so keep your eyes focused on Heaven and God will guide your steps.

What is your advice to girls struggling to pursue relationship with Jesus when there is so much going on in life?

It’s different for everyone. I know for me, turning my phone off is key, as is listening to worship and taking time out from constant communication. Deliberately limiting social media, and therefore comparison to everyone else is very important too: don’t be caught up in the idea of a perfect life.

It’s also about making tiny changes step by step. Maybe choose to read a couple of verses on your phone, rather than flicking through Instagram. Also be with Christian friends and be intentional about your time together, be accountable and honest – as you will sharpen each other, and though change is gradual, you will see it.

Teenage years are HARD, so – pray, pray, pray.

Thank you to Ali for sharing her thoughts with the MP readers today.
We wish you all the best with Macaw Designs!

This is Living

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The Lord will fight for you. You only need to be still.
Exodus 14:14

I came across this verse when someone posted it on Instagram a few weeks ago, and it is one of those verses that hasn’t left my mind since I saw it. It intrigued me, comforted me and challenged me all at the same time.

The verse comes in the middle of a chapter where Moses and the Israelites (God’s people) were fleeing Pharaoh, who had been oppressing them and treating them as slaves. This verse comes just as Moses and the Israelites have the Red Sea in front of them, and Pharaoh’s army closing in behind them. It looks like they are trapped, and either they drown in the sea, or have to face battle with Pharaoh’s army. In the midst of this, the Israelites cry out to God, and Moses says:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.””

Exodus 14:13

Be still?! Surely they should be running, preparing to fight, or at least just doing something. But “be still“?

Moses had great faith in God, and I think that Moses is reminding us, as well as the Israelites, that we have a God who works miracles, who fights for us, and is so much more powerful than we can really ever grasp.

Psalm 46:10 says:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

We need to keep on reminding ourselves of who He is, because when we do, we see that we can totally trust in Him and be still. He WILL fight for us. We can trust in the God who lavished his love on us. He is in control and sovereign over all our problems, disappointments, anxieties, our future, our relationships – everything.

We need to stop trying to control everything and instead encounter Jesus, spend time in his presence and engage our hearts with who he is.

If we are just trying to get through the week or month without any major disasters, or if we just want to get things done so that we can get onto the next thing or the next stage of life, we might be in danger of missing out. I am often tempted to slip into this mentality – I think that once I get to Thursday, or once I’ve done this exam, or once I’ve organised that event or saved up that much money, then I will truly trust God with all areas of my life. I need to ask God to change this way of thinking and turn it on its head. I want my heart to be 100% secure in the truth that all I need is found in Him.

We come alive in Christ, and he sets us free. As Hillsong Young & Free put it: this is living! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in our hearts so that our faith is THE thing that truly sustains us, our source of energy, joy, excitement and life.

God loves us, and He will fight for us.

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Emma

Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge 3 years ago, and now works in Finance. She said ‘I Do’ to the wonderful Luke in April and loves being part of Team Pendlebury!  Emma’s other passions include leading music at church, doing Pilates & eating salted caramel ice cream! She is so loving seeing God use More Precious to grow his kingdom.

Found in Proverbs: Truth & Lies

Devotionals Typer

‘Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.’
Proverbs 12:19

‘The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.’
Proverbs 12:22

Everybody lies, whether to others or to ourselves. Sometimes we haven’t even thought through what we’re about to say before a lie slips out of our mouth. It is easy to pretend that it doesn’t matter; it’s only a little lie.

Lies have a habit of spiralling, when we tell one we often find ourselves having to tell another. Whilst this might work momentarily, Proverbs 12:19 assures us it will not last in the long run. Even if we were never to be found out on earth, we cannot lie to God.

The Bible reminds us that lies are serious. God detests lies. If we know that to be the case why would we ever want to do it? I find I lie most when trying to influence someone else’s opinion of me for the better. In these situations, I notice that I have begun to value what others think of me over what God thinks of me.

Jesus is the ultimate example of what an honest life looks like. His honesty gives me something to aim for. When I inevitably fall short, His death on the cross means that I am still forgiven by God, free of sin and free to try and live the right way again.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

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Katrina

Katrina is a first year Sports student at studying at Durham University. Although often missing her wonderful Cambridge home, Katrina has found Durham to be a hard place not to fall in love with. She is settling into university life by attempting to try all the coffee shops (despite not drinking coffee)! Katrina is passionate about watching girls grow with the assurance and knowledge that they are valuable and crazily loved daughters of God.

The Comparison Trap

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‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’
Colossians 3:1-4

I don’t know about you, but I’m very often guilty of comparing myself to others. I’ll do this with pretty much every aspect of my life – talents, achievements, looks, sense of humour, social life, family life – and quite often my sense of how successful I am is determined by how I do in that comparison. Either I’m pleased with myself because I think I’ve done as well or better than those around me, or I’m upset because I feel as though I’ll never measure up to others in the way I want to.

It’s worth saying that there’s nothing wrong with admiring other people and being inspired and encouraged by our friends and family to become more like the people God has called us to be. The beautiful thing about being adopted into God’s family is that we have brothers and sisters around us to learn from and to spur us on in godliness, and that is something that I’m extremely thankful for! However, I also think it’s all too easy to let covetous thoughts creep in and to start feeling discontent with what God has given us.

My constant comparing myself with others means that much of my thought life is concerned with how I can become better in other people’s eyes, how I can be attractive to other people, and how I can hide my flaws from other people as well. The problem with this is that instead of serving Jesus and living in light of what he has done for me, I’m actually living for myself and in light of what others think. The reality of the here and now has become much more real to me than the reality of the hope of Heaven to come.

In short, I’m looking sideways rather than where I should be looking – upwards.

‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

This verse has been such a huge help to me with this issue! It reminds me that this life that I’m living now is not all that there is – there’s an eternal life to come with Christ, because I have been raised with him. Christ’s work on the cross means that I and everyone else who believes and trusts in Him can look forward to the certain hope of eternal life with Him.

When I look around at what others have and become dissatisfied that I don’t have the same it’s because I’ve lost sight of what’s to come, and I’m living as though this life now is the only chance for fulfilment and happiness. Verse 3 completely blows me away: I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God! That means that everything that seems so appealing and concrete in this life is actually temporary. My real life hasn’t even started yet, so how I live in the present should be in preparation for that.

The area that these verses have helped me in most is singleness. In Cambridge, where I live and work, I’m so blessed to have a number of single friends to spend my evenings and weekends with, and the fact that I’m single barely registers with me as an issue. I have the flexibility to use my time however I want, and I can make decisions with more freedom than I would have if I had a husband and children to consider. But, as soon as I spend some time with my friends from home (the majority of whom are loved-up and on the cusp of getting engaged), those pesky comparisons start to creep in! When they talk about their boyfriends I wonder why God hasn’t brought someone into my life, and when they talk about weddings I begin to feel sorry for myself that I might not ever have one to plan, never get the chance to have my big day. On my worst days I begin to panic that everyone around me is going to pair off, leaving me doomed to always be on my own – no one to attend weddings with, no one to grow old with, and no children to look after me when I’m old.

‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

You can see how I desperately need this verse! As my gaze is pointed upwards to Jesus instead of sideways to others I’m reminded that he is the only one I need, he is the one I should be serving – not others, or myself.

‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’
Colossians 1:17

He has mapped out my life and called me to live for him, and he has given me everything I need to be able to do that. This means that, for now anyway, that being a single woman is how he would have me serve him. He’s given me the gifts and personality that I need to serve him, so why should I ask for more?

I wish I could say that once I discovered this verse I never again compared myself to someone else and have been living with my eyes glued on Jesus ever since, but I can’t! This is a daily struggle, and it may be something that I struggle with for the rest of my life. We all know that seeking to live a godly life can be hard, frustrating and tiring. We’re constantly battling our desire to live how we want, doing the things we want with the people we want. Giving in to temptation again and again makes us despair, and we can wonder if it’s all even worth it anyway.

But what an amazing promise is found in verse 4: ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ Of course it’s worth it! When this life is passed we have an eternity to spend with Jesus Christ, when we’ll no longer struggle with sin, feel like we’re missing out or wish we had more than we have. We’ll be sharing in Christ’s glory – perfect, whole and experiencing more joy than we could ever possibly imagine.

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Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 12.09.53Jody

Jody

Jody is originally from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland but now works as a ministry trainee at a church in Cambridge. She is passionate about seeing people growing in their relationship with Jesus through God’s word, and loves that she gets to do that as part of her job. When she’s not working she loves spending time with her friends, cooking and watching musicals.

Found in Proverbs: Integrity

Devotionals Dandelion

‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.’

Proverbs 10:9

‘The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.’
Proverbs 11:3

‘“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer –
then goes off and boasts about the purchase.’
Proverbs 20:14

To have integrity is to be honest with our whole lives. This means that we are the same person when spending time with one group of friends as we are with another, or that our life at church is the same as it is for the rest of the week. When we live with integrity we can feel more confident and open, rather than feeling like we’re constantly waiting to be found out. If you are a person of integrity, you will do what you say even if nobody else is looking.

Another way of thinking about integrity is about being solid or ‘whole’. We are one person who isn’t plagued by ‘duplicity’ or the confusion of trying to be many different people at once in order to please everyone. A good question to ask is, “What is the most straightforward and honest thing to do here?”

In Proverbs 20 v 14 we see a key issue in our culture of dishonesty. How many times have we said to someone, “I haven’t revised at all for this exam,” when in fact we’ve put in hours of work? Or insisted, “I’m good, everything is fine,” when a friend checks in during the midst of personal struggle? We say one thing and mean another.

When we live with integrity we honour God. We acknowledge our failures and don’t hide the wrong. We are consistent, reliable, honest and humble enough to admit when we need help.

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Katrina

Katrina is a first year Sports student at studying at Durham University. Although often missing her wonderful Cambridge home, Katrina has found Durham to be a hard place not to fall in love with. She is settling into university life by attempting to try all the coffee shops (despite not drinking coffee)! Katrina is passionate about watching girls grow with the assurance and knowledge that they are valuable and crazily loved daughters of God.

Faith Worked Out: Beth Croft

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Many of you will be familiar with the music and ministry of Beth Croft and of Soul Survivor, and so we are especially excited to be sharing with you this newest interview in our Faith Worked Out series. Beth was kind enough to speak to us about the importance of praising God through music, the times when she has found it hard to persevere in her faith, and the ways in which she tries to use her gifts for God’s glory. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did! XO

Beth Croft

Fun Five
Fun Five

Dream holiday destination: Switzerland – I love the ‘Sound of Music’.

Song that you listen to on repeat: Ghost by Ella Henderson and Forever by Bethel.

£10 treat: Food – I’m pregnant at the moment so it’s all about food!

Favourite Psalm: Psalm 91.

Coffee order: Decaf Cappuccino.

 

 

Can you tell us about what you do day to day, and how you have ended up doing what you do?

I work for Soul Survivor Ministries and Soul Survivor Church, heading up the worship there. So I spend a lot of time leading worship, pastoring the worship team and working with our volunteers who play with us.

I grew up going to Soul Survivor Church as a teenager. I have always been musical but when I was 18 the worship leader in my cell group was ill for a couple of weeks. I didn’t really want to lead, as I had never done it before, but the group seemed to think I was the next best option! At that time, I only played the piano but you can’t really put one of those in your handbag to take to cell group! My brother had a guitar and God prompted me to give it a go. I practised like crazy, (even the “spontaneous” parts!) and that was where it all started. I was then given the chance to do a worship internship during my degree, and after I graduated, I went to work for Soul Survivor.

If I’m honest, I didn’t plan to do Christian ministry as my full time job. I expected to have a normal job, where I would be living out my faith in a secular setting. My faith really came alive at uni, and I loved being a light in what can sometimes be a dark and confusing place. Despite my earlier plans to be a school teacher, I felt God prompting me into full time ministry and I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else now! God softens our hearts towards the things that he has as our purpose – even if we are not totally sure at the time.

What made you passionate about leading worship? How did you uncover the vision that God has for your life?

Music had always been an important part of my connection and relationship with God. As my faith became more important to me, when I came home from school before doing my homework, I’d sit at the piano for ages and worship God there, on my own. That was my prayer time and my outlet. That’s where I learnt to lead worship – I was leading myself to worship God. Because I played every day, I grew in confidence in my skill too.

After that, it was really when I did my internship that I was thrown in the deep end. I went from hardly having led, to leading 4 times a week – at alpha, church services, prayer meetings, cell groups. It really was sink or swim and I had to learn to swim! Learning with Tim Hughes was an amazing privilege.

Why is it so important for us to praise God in music and song?

It comes down to it being an expression of the relationship we have with Jesus. If you fall in love with someone, that affects everything – how you spend your time, what you say to them, how you treat them – because that relationship becomes important. Worship is the same: worship as our whole lives, and also as singing praises to God. There are songs of worship all over the Bible, particularly in the psalms.

How do you go about writing a song? Where do you start?

Often I get the seed of an idea during a time of worship. I will have my phone on me and I have been known to run out of the room straight afterwards to record the idea, and then work on it later! Or sometimes it will be a phrase of scripture and I’ll want to carve a song around that. It’s often the result of the work God’s doing in me, or in our church, and over time it gets drawn out and the seed of an idea develops into a song.

A few months ago, I wrote a song and the starting place for that was that I had been praying lots about some situations where I really didn’t like seeing people totally caught up in situations, unable to let go of them. Some lyrics about letting go came to me, and I named the song ‘Letting Go’. Then I took it to a friend called Nick Herbert, and he said that as it happened, he had been thinking about the theme of holding or clinging onto the cross.

You can see that the underlying idea was the same but Nick helped turn the lyrics around and make them more positive: we positively cling to the cross of Jesus and in doing so, we let go of things around us. Co-writing has been really helpful for me, and once you put those dates in the diary with other songwriters, it gives a good sense of urgency which I find actually aids creativity.

Can you give us an example of a time in your life when it was hard to live for Jesus and how you got through it? What encouraged you to persevere?

I was a late developer in terms of having an identity crisis! When I was 20-21 and started leading a lot more and was exposed to leadership, people saw a certain side of me on stage. I really felt the pressure to be spiritually perfect because I was leading others in worship. But I knew that there was another side to my life – one where I found it really hard to read my bible and pray each day. Although I was doing more on the surface for God than ever before, underneath I was wrestling through with God what it meant to just be Beth, without any public profile and being ok with my weaknesses, and my strengths too. I’m so grateful for that time looking back on it, and the way that God brought me through that and gave me His true identity as a result.

What would your advice be to those who want to serve Jesus passionately and wholeheartedly, but aren’t sure how they can best do this?

Look at what God’s put in front of you. We can sometimes think that God will put some massive, grand plan in front of us – like moving overseas and selling everything we have. But sometimes God puts us in a boring town, or in a school where no one shares our views, but he has plans to use us in that place for His purposes. So often, God wants to use us exactly where we are.

Ask God what He has put in your hands, what he has put in front of you and don’t be afraid to start small. Whoever can be trusted with little, can be trusted with much (Luke 16).

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Thank you to Beth for her sharing her wisdom with More Precious this morning. We absolutely love her new album ‘Rule In My Heart’, which you can find here.

Hopes and Dreams for 2015


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2015 has arrived! A new year brings with it a chance for fresh insight and new focus into our spiritual lives. It’s an opportunity to reconsider where we are heading and how God is planning to change our hearts and use our lives for His glory.

So, just as in last year’s successful New Year post, we have asked a few girls to join us as we think over our hopes, dreams, intentions and ambitions for 2015. Some of us have found it helpful to choose a particular ‘word for the year’, or to focus on a verse or image from the Bible and aim to make it a real feature of our spiritual journey throughout the year.

We hope you enjoy the following snapshots
of our hopes and dreams for 2015!

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Milly

Screen shot 2014-12-31 at 16.29.53For me, 2015 is a bit of an unknown. I’m not really sure what this year holds but my prayer is to trust the Lord with it, with all my heart. I often try to rely on my own strength and understanding but I want to learn to look to God instead, and to seek His will. I want to trust God in every aspect of my life, in the assurance that I’ve been forgiven and made right with Him, and to completely depend on Him in all the everyday things as well as with big decisions. God promises that by looking to Him, we can be confident that He will direct our paths.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us that through our great high priest we can ‘boldly approach the throne of grace’ and so this is how I want to start this year, confidently looking to God and knowing his grace, and trusting Him alone.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maria

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My hope this year is that I look up in order that I can step into what God calls me to do. I love the story in Matthew where Peter walks on water after Jesus. Peter acts upon Jesus’ call to ‘take courage’ and steps out in faith onto the water. But Peter is so human, he looks around and worries about the obstacles surrounding him and panics, yet Jesus is there and does not let him sink. I can so sympathise with Peter – I’m a terrible worrier and often say ‘I can’t do it’.

But the Bible is littered with verses calling us to ‘look up/lift up our eyes’ and see who God is. Like Isaiah 40:26, which tells us God is the mighty Creator, yet he is so caring and calls each star by name. Here in Matthew, Jesus is in control – yet he also is a friend with whom we have a relationship, he is with us and paves the way in front of us.

I pray this year that I become so comfortable in my relationship with Jesus, with God’s identity and who I am in Him that I look up, and step out boldly into that which He has planned for me.

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Jessie

Screen shot 2015-01-02 at 09.49.55So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 

My word for the year (and for the rest of my life!) is reliance. Reliance not on my own strength, but on Christ’s. That I would depend on Him for everything and not on my own power.

I love these verses from Paul’s letter to the Colossians – he reminds us that, in order to grow in our faith, we must “continue to live in [Christ]” and be “rooted” in him. Our joy, thankfulness, strength don’t come from ourselves but from God.

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Anna

Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 12.53.33God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

This year I’m praying that I might learn what it is to be humble. I’ve often turned to this verse in moments of panic, as deadlines approach or decisions have to be made, yet I always turn to the second part of this verse. I was reminded recently that we are to humble ourselves before coming to God, recognising our weakness and need for God’s grace. I’m praying that throughout 2015 I would recognise and remember that I can’t get through life by myself and that I must humble myself before our God on whom I can cast all of my anxiety.

How great it is to know that whatever 2015 might hold for us, in the joys, struggles and those stressful, panicky moments that by humbling ourselves and relying on God we can find protection under his “mighty hand.”

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Lucy

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The Bible tells us to fear not, to love God with all of our strength, to trust Him with everything, and to approach Him boldly. This year, I want to be defined by a spirit of boldness, drawing strength from my identity as a daughter of the King.

Like Milly, 2015 is an unknown and slightly daunting year for me. But 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God’s Spirit does not give us fear, but gives us power and love. I’m praying that this year that I might be able to fix my eyes on God and find strength and boldness in Him. I want to be bold in my prayer life, bold in my love for others, bold in denying myself daily, bold in speaking about Jesus, bold in living radically and distinctively as His child.

So – here’s to 2015, to being bold, and to knowing that the One who made the Heavens and the Earth loves me unconditionally and has a perfect plan for my life!

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Jenny

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The element of my Christian faith which I aim to focus on in 2015 is my prayer life. My prayer life is something that I continuously struggle with. 1 Peter 5:7 states: “cast your cares upon him because he cares for you”. I know that God cares about me but I still don’t turn to God as my first option. I understand that if prayer was a priority in my life I would not stress as much over little things but instead would trust God with the details of my life. I find it easy to talk about this but much harder to implement in my daily life.

This year I would like to live completely trusting in God and focusing on him everyday. I want to walk away from my current cycle of stressing and trying to deal with things myself before offering them to God. God offers us peace and love if we only offer ourselves to him, not as a last resort but as our plan A.

As the old hymn states:

“Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

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Hannie

10805265_10155005805340105_1696803555_nA little simplistic, but in some ways so complex; my word for this year is Love. As Jake and I look forward to getting married in August, I’m learning more so than ever just how vast marital love is. In fact, I feel like movies like The Notebook and the likes have done me a great disservice. The love these movies portray barely scrapes the surface of how God intended lifelong, covenental love. Instead, marriage was created to be the ultimate reflection of Jesus’s relationship with God and the church.

This can be overwhelming when we see Jesus with nails through his hands making the ultimate sacrifice for His true love – the same sacrifice that Jake and I will be called to make daily. Laying our lives down for the good of the other.

Luckily I think we’re both up for the challenge. As I see how much Jake loves me, I’m staggered to realise that his love is only a drop of God’s vast love for me. It is a privilege to spend this year preparing ourselves for a lifelong adventure of marriage, but it’s even greater to grasp a little bit more of God’s love for his people.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16

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Wishing you a very Happy New Year from all the MP team.
We’re praying that you would know God’s immense love for you this 2015. 

 

In His Strength: Our 2014

“Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.”
John Piper

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A week or so ago, Lucy and I found ourselves musing upon last year’s post of this very nature. The post feels so long ago, with this year feeling like it has been an entire age. Much has changed, not only for the site but also in our personal lives (August will see the very first More Precious wedding!).

Lucy has always had a much braver vision than me, but I think even she was surprised to see the influence to which God used our once little blog to move the next generation of Christian women this year. I spent much of 2014 pinching myself, watching the website become exactly what I had been thirsting for throughout much of my adolescent and young adult life. I was excited to see girls and young women encouraged to be Kingdom Builders and a radical light in a dark world.

The Summer Series was a total highlight for me. Each post was heartbreaking and struck a deep chord – seeing that how no matter how hard we tried, we could not escape the fallenness of this world. However, what made the series so hopeful was the constant resounding “But God…” – isn’t that the truth that we are desperately trying to show those around us? That our stories don’t have to end with the empty chasm of this world – instead we have the opportunity to rise from the ashes with a “But God”!

As I stood voicing my own painful (but God-filled!) testimony at A Life More Precious, I couldn’t help but feel hugely emotional. I began this journey with Lucy by sharing my challenges with Jeremiah 29:11, questioning how we can reconcile God’s plans for us with the reality of worldly difficulties, aching for God’s glory in my ruins. As I stood on that stage and looked out at the 80 girls sat before me, I realised that each of these girls was God’s glory in my ruins.

You are all God’s glory – each 50,000 of you. And it is a privilege to serve our King with you.

- Hannie xo

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Looking at the year we have had, all glory goes to God for breathing life and spark into the vision of More Precious; for giving us opportunities to take, and grace for our mistakes.

Incredibly, this year we have had the immense privilege of seeing girls choosing to pursue new relationship with Jesus, because they have been changed by God’s love – and I want to ask you to join with us in praying for More Precious throughout 2015 and beyond, that we might see more of God at work in tangible and life-changing ways.

I have loved so much about 2014: the wonderful and gifted writers whose stories we have been able to publish; the excitement of speaking with girls who first knew a little of God years ago and have decided to return to Him once more; the encouraging emails from girls halfway across the world; the boldness of my 10 year old cousin, who is seeking how to be distinctive and courageous as the only Christian in her class; our incredible Faith Worked Out interview series, which has shown me that even some of the most successful, creative and inspiring women in the UK are pursuing Jesus passionately and wholeheartedly with the gifts they have been given.

Other highlights have to include speaking to the amazing (and huge!) Christian Union at Hills Road Sixth Form College, and of course the very special and exciting event ‘A Life More Precious’. I will never forget that evening!

Looking ahead to 2015, my challenge for the year is inspired by these words from John Piper:

“My joy grows with every soul that seeks the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.”

I don’t want to waste the time and potential I have, distracted by my own selfish ways. Instead, I want to pursue God wholeheartedly and introduce lost souls to His saving grace and glory. After a year of seeing hearts fall further in love with their Maker, I write with a new energy and passion for introducing girls to King Jesus – something which I know so many of you share, as you continue to inspire me with the way you live your lives.

All glory to our Heavenly Father, who is graciously letting More Precious play a little part in His Big Plan. Here’s to another year of seeing the lost found, the broken made whole, and the Treasure of Christ.

- Lucy xo

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Grace for the Good Girl

Here at More Precious, we love speaking about grace. Grace being: the immense act of love and sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross to save us, despite the fact that we don’t, and never will deserve it.

We’ve spoken about how grace fills our cracks and makes us whole, how grace gives us hope and identity. We’ve realised that grace is for the broken and messy, that grace is for us even when we feel lost and dirty and afraid and far from being good enough.

But what about if we DO feel ‘good enough’ – or even when we just don’t feel particularly bad? Is grace really needed for the girls who never miss a Sunday and never argue with their parents? Sarah’s post today on this topic is wonderful and much-needed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. L x

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Okay, first admission: I stole the title.

When I was younger, I was given a book called ‘Grace for the Good Girl’ by my Sunday school teacher as an end of year present (a.k.a. subtle spiritual hint) but was far too proud and offended at the ever-so-subtle hint to ever read it.

Second admission: I’ve always been a ‘good girl’.

I was that eager-to-please kid in school that spent hours on a piece of homework, craving for recognition. I was that daughter who never really outwardly rebelled against her parents, and provided relief from the tension from other more rebellious siblings. I was that friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, who said no even when it was social suicide because that’s who I was: the Good Girl.

I would look at other teenagers in my church who were sneaking out to parties, drinking, going too far in relationships and living a double life and I would quietly sit and judge them.

When I saw them, I saw hypocrites; people that would turn up to church and say the right answers in Sunday School, whilst living for everything else but God from Monday to Saturday. I didn’t see that I was the biggest hypocrite. I judged everyone else for living pretty obvious double lives, but in reality I was deceiving everyone around me about who I was – including myself.

In my eyes, I was great. But, ironically, the ‘God points’ that I was giving myself were blocking my view of Jesus. I thought that I was good enough to earn salvation on my own. I heard the story of the Prodigal Son and secretly felt sorry for the older brother. I disconnected myself from Bible passages about humans being sinful… maybe all those people were sinful, but I was different.

And then, God stepped in.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

After hearing those verses in my youth group one night, my life changed. I’d heard it several times before, but this time God opened my eyes to the truth. I was blown away at the ridiculousness of my self-righteousness. If God’s standard is perfection, then no matter how good I was, it wasn’t good enough. Yet, I was so used to my ‘goodness’ that I couldn’t see how pathetic my attempts at earning my salvation were.

It’s as if we are born with black shirts, and to be right with God, our shirts have to be completely white. Not off-white, or white with a few dark smudges, but pure, spotless, unspoiled bleach white. I tried to make my shirt white; I used religion as a stain remover for my blackness. I tried to ignore the colour of my shirt and tell myself that it was white. But nothing worked.

Here’s the good news though; my story doesn’t end like this!

I realised that nothing I could do could get me to a standard of perfection – and so, I finally looked to Jesus. And to my amazement, he was wearing a shiny new white shirt. But he didn’t just look at my sorry state and boast about how glad he is that he has a white shirt. No, he reached out to me, embraced me and offered to swap shirts.

Isn’t that amazing? That even someone that was denial about how helpless they were can ‘swap shirts’ with Jesus? Even though I will never fully understand the depth of my darkness, He still made me white and unblemished.

And that’s why I’m a Christian today.

Not because I’ve got it all together (and I’m sorry when I make it look like I do)
but because I really don’t.

Jesus has some pretty strong words about hypocrisy and pride. Earlier in the passage, he warns that the way we judge others is the way that we will be judged. Yet even now, as a Christian I find myself looking at other Christians and comparing myself to them on my inner ‘holiness metre’.

God isn’t giving up on me though. Even though I’m possibly the slowest learner out there, He’s patiently showing me how much I need Him. The more I learn about Jesus’ death on the cross, the more I realise the extent of my need for him.

My battle with self-righteousness will be a long one – possibly even for the rest of my life. If this has resonated with you, I want to encourage you to keep fighting. God doesn’t promise that he will take away our battles, whether that is battling more obvious outward sin or a more inward, devious fight like mine.

But He promises that his grace is enough, even for people that don’t always see their need for it. And He gives us strength to continue fighting it.

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Sarah

Sarah

Sarah is an English student at Durham University, who has somehow managed to make it to second year, thanks to Sparknotes, Yorkshire Tea, Taylor Swift and some pretty great people. Sarah is passionate about telling students about Jesus and discipling girls in their walk with God. She lives in a small seaside town in Wales where there is never a dull moment, thanks to her crazy big family! 

Christmas Devotional: God With Us

In today’s Christmas devotional, Emily takes us through what she loves about the Christmas Story – how God came to be with us, ‘Immanuel’. 
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 Matthew 1:22-23

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’

God is so powerful and strong yet he sent his own son into the world through a normal girl called Mary. God works in unexpected ways; we never know what he is going to do next. He is outside of our understanding.

Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is amazing; we can have a relationship with the king of the world. Everyone can have a relationship with him. God is with us through all of life.

There is a song I used to sing at Sunday club, it says ‘sometimes good things happen God is there, sometimes bad things happen God is there too’. God is always with us. We can remember this by reading the Bible and listening to Christian music, and it is amazing to have Christian friends who we can chat to and encourage each other.

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Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily go to school in Cambridge and are part of the same church family as Lucy, Hannie, Emma and Katrina. They love sleepovers, Great British Bake-Off and reading the Bible together as ‘study buddies’!

God’s Glory In Our Mess

This post is transcribed from Hannie’s wonderful talk on 22/11/14 at St John’s College, Durham University for the event ‘A Life More Precious’. It is based on her very first More Precious post, back from August 2013!
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As many of you will know, back in Easter earlier this year, Lucy and I invited all of our writers to contribute posts that shed some light on dealing with the difficulties of being a young Christian woman in the 21st century. As the summer progressed a clear theme emerged from the posts – one of God’s glory in our ruins.

In response to the courage and honesty shown witness by all of our fabulous writers, I want to tell you the story of God’s glorious redemption in my ruins.

To start with I want to turn our attention to Jeremiah 29:11:

“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.”

Having grown up believing in Jesus and His resurrection for as long as I can remember, this is a verse that simply rolls off the tongue. However, years later, I found that this passage, whilst so easy to offer as a consolation to friends, was much harder to believe in the reality of life.

When I was sixteen my life changed dramatically and my family never really looked the same. In December 2008, my mum became seriously ill with clinical depression. Within 8 weeks of my mum first noting that she wasn’t feeling well, she was in hospital due to the severity and intense form of depression she was experiencing. For the next few years, she was in and out of hospital, and at times family life was unrecognisable.

If any of you have any experience with mental health, then you will know that there is little more chaotic. Suddenly, the tidy life that I had envisioned for my future was messy, painful, and uncertain. In fact, the only way that I could cope with this uncertainty and chaos was to control the one thing I knew how: food.

And so, in February 2009, with my mother in hospital, I too found myself receiving treatment for anorexia nervosa.

Initially I had prayed for healing for both my mother and me, believing at face value all of the verses that I had read as a child – God loved me and wanted to give me good things, so surely He would heal my family?

As the years went on with no healing, I found myself doubting everything I had grown up believing. How could God have good plans for me if this is where He had placed me? How could I ever believe that God had planned a hope for me if all along He had known what was coming?

My process of reconciling all the pain and struggles with faith began where it always should, His Word. I removed my emotions from the equation and looked back at the only place I could find the truth about His character. The Bible tells us:

God is good, and keeps His promises:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

Every good thing comes from Him:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 (NIV)

He loves us… so much so that He sacrificed His son for us:

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:10 (NIV)

And all this never changes:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe that what it says is true. Therefore, according to this alone, I must have faith that God is working according to His promises.

Of course, this is so much easier said than done.However, the disparity between His promise and our current circumstances becomes a little clearer when re-reading Jeremiah chapters 28 and 29. To give the scripture some context, against the false prophecy of Hananiah, Jeremiah relays God’s message that the Israelites were to remain exiled in Babylon for 70 years, rather than the two years promised by Hananiah.

It was to this backdrop of suffering and despair that God offered his promise so well-known in Jeremiah 29:11. God did indeed offer a promise that was undeniable and inevitable, but it would not come within the timetable of the Israelites, nor would it come according to the packaging they had requested.

Understanding this, I was able to realise that God’s promise of hope and good really had little to do with my understanding of the past few years. God would keep His promise of providing a hope and a future, but it was unlikely that this hope and future would look anything like I had imagined.

I have been forced to face up to the gaps in my faith. Who knew how easy it was to believe in God and all His entirety when life was easy, compared to when life doesn’t go your way? It took hundreds of sleepless nights, and hours of fear, to really know that God was there. Because it is only when it feels like you have nothing left, nothing to hold on to, do you find yourself really letting go and reaching out to Him and Him alone.

I realised that the injustice I felt towards it all, the innate sense of wrong, was actually God’s way of reminding me that this was not the world how God intended. We live in a fallen world where mental illness is merely a symptom of the poison fruit. But He has found a way, and that will forever be our hope – even if it I will never fully grasp it until eternity.

I don’t know what pain or ruins you have brought here today, and maybe you have lost sight of God altogether, believing that He couldn’t possibly exist, or be good, while you suffer and endure unbearable pain.

And I can’t promise that the pain will go away – sometimes it never gets better. My mum still fights to stay alive every day – and the voice in my head telling me not to eat is never that far from the surface.

But I can promise you that God will never leave you or forsake you in this dark world.

I want you to know that you have been placed on this earth as an image bearer. You are here to bear the image of hope. In my brokenness and fear, God has shone through the cracks and I am a reflection of His immeasurable goodness.

Because of his goodness, I know that one day He will wipe away every tear and I will see my mum whole again.

I have been trusted with a story. We have all been trusted with a story. We are called to see beyond the night and point towards the light. We were born for such a time as this – to tell the world of something better.

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Hannie

Hi, I’m Hannie, Co-Editor and Social Media Manager here at More Precious. I recently finished my time studying at the University of Birmingham and have since been abruptly dropped into the “real world”. I love running, fresh flowers and spending a copious amount of time in coffee shops with friends. I am passionate about encouraging a generation of girls and young women who radically pursue their God-given purpose.

Christmas Devotional: To Treasure

Welcome to Luke Chapter 2, where we are partway through the Christmas Story! We’re starting from verse 16, where a host of angels have just told the shepherds that Jesus our Saviour will be born…

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Luke 2:16-19

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

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Sometimes we can find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives – especially in the countdown to Christmas. We can forget to take time to be still, think, ‘treasure’ and remember who God is and why we celebrate Christmas at all.

These verses and the way that Mary ‘treasures’ and stores the glorious moment of Jesus’ birth in her heart reminds us that it is good for us too to store up evidence of God’s goodness in our own hearts, so that we can remain strong in our faith. Our identity is secure in Him!

We can find and store up our own ‘treasure’ by reading the Bible, where we can see God’s character.

It is so encouraging to remember His past provision and goodness, and know that we can have hope and confidence in the future because God is good and He loves us.

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Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily go to school in Cambridge and are part of the same church family as Lucy, Hannie, Emma and Katrina. They love sleepovers, Great British Bake-Off and reading the Bible together as ‘study buddies’!

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