Well, my apologies as this post is about 8 weeks overdue! Oops! It’s crazy how fast time is flying by while simultaneously going by at a glacial pace. How does that happen? In this instance, however, time seems to have gotten away from me and this blog has been thrown to the side as I’ve been trying to get lots of other things accomplished before our little mister joins this side of life 🙂 But, now that I actually have time to dedicate to this blog, I wanted to share with you some of my maternity photos my dear friend, Jennifer took of me! I was 29 weeks pregnant and Jen insisted on getting these photos taken before my baby shower on September 23rd. Little did I know that she was going to print a few of her favorites out to display at my baby shower. What a fun detail it was and then being able to take them home to decorate my house afterwards made it even more special!
These photos were taken at a conservation area in northern Columbia. After exhausting lots of other locations for photography I’ve done in the past, we opted for a new location and a new set of scenery. After taking a wrong turn and showing up on the wrong side of the conservation area, my late arrival made for a lot less time for photos. However, we were both pleased with how they turned out anyways! I’m so thankful that I got some maternity photos that I’ll be able to look back on in the future!
If you could write a letter to your former self, what would it say? Would it be things you wish you didn’t do or things you wish you did do?
Some of you may recognize the title “Dear Younger Me” as a Christian song by MercyMe. I’ve heard that song over and over and I hadn’t ever really thought about what it would look like if I had written a song or a letter to my younger self. However, I can definitely say I’ve learned and grown exponentially more in my upper 20’s then I have in the rest of my life. I definitely do wish I could have replaced the Maren I was back in college with the Maren I am now. Luckily, I’m so thankful for God’s grace and His ability to show me that He can refine me no matter how many times I make a fool of myself. This letter is proof that God can use every single one of us, amidst the filthiness and muck of our sins and use it for His glory. So, at 28 years old, here’s my letter to my younger self of what I’ve learned thus far.
As I look back throughout my 28 years on this Earth, I’m reminded of all the big life lessons I have been blessed enough to learn. I think the majority of who I’ve become today has been mostly due to the faithfulness of Jesus and His desire to never let me go. As I look back at my high school and college careers, I’m almost embarrassed to remember the Maren I used to be. I just wish I could take the Maren that thought she had it all figured out, give her a couple good shakes, sit her down and explain that God’s
plans for her life are immeasurably more important and fulfilling than any desire this world could ever provide. I’ve made a list of some of the most important things I’ve learned throughout the trials that Jesus graciously gave me to bring me closer to Him.
Love Others, in ALL Circumstances// It’s always easier to love someone that is similar to you or has the same beliefs as you. Even though you had friends that did not have your same beliefs, you found yourself conforming to their lifestyles to fit in but when those newfound lifestyles started to clash with values you knew you couldn’t give up, it became easy to call them out on their flaws, get in disagreements and allow those differences to sever your relationships. The love you intended to have for them turned to prideful judgement and caused a friendship to go down in flames. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” and John 15:12-13 says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” These verses show that as believers and people who love Jesus, we are to love others (despite who they are and what they believe) for that love comes from Jesus. God’s love pours over into us so that those that don’t know Him may see Him through us. So, Maren, instead of convicting others for their differences, let’s love them and show them what it truly looks like to love Jesus.
Your Identity is Found in Christ ALONE// Finding and keeping good quality friends in high school and college were always a struggle for you. Often times, you’d introduce two of your friends to each other and then before you knew it, they were better friends with each other than they were with you and you would eventually become exiled from the group. Often times, your worth was measured through the amount of friends that you had and the amount of get-together’s you were invited to. One time in college, a friendship was severed due to miscommunications and differences in belief that left you broken and shattered. You thought your lack of friends meant that your worth had disintegrated right in front of you. How misled you were. You found your identity in your friendships and what others thought of you and instead, should have seen how worthy you were in God’s eyes. Things of this world, whether friendships or materialistic things, are fleeting and will never provide satisfaction, despite how much we think they will. The only thing we can anchor our hope and our identity in is God. He is the firm foundation when everything else is sinking sand. Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” and Galatians 3:26 says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” If our identity is found in things of this world, we will consistently find ourselves empty and worthless, but Maren, you are so worthy in God’s eyes, despite what friends may think or say. Remember to find your identity in Christ and not of anything else!
Emotions Lie// You grew up with a family that has struggled with depression and wore their hearts on their sleeves. You grew up thinking that your emotions were not meant to be controlled but expressed. You learned to let your emotions carry away your logic and trusted that they must be true if you were feeling them. You trusted entirely too much on what your emotions were telling you. Unfortunately, emotions lie. And despite this is one of the most difficult struggles to navigate, even today, don’t forget to believe biblical truth. God’s truth will never lead you astray. Even when your emotions want to listen to the devil’s attempts to pull you away from God, don’t give in. His truths will NEVER let you down.
Trust in God’s Plans, Not Yours// You’ve always been a planner. You like to have your life planned months in advance. You planned on getting married young, you planned on buying a house, planned on having a successful career and planned on having two children by the time you were 30. You even planned on having these plans work out the way you wanted them to. By God’s grace, most of the plans above actually came true, except for a few. After realizing that a job in the Animal Science industry doesn’t bring happiness and after spending over a year trying to get pregnant and not having success, it became apparent that your plans are NOT God’s plans. No matter how hard you tried to make them turn out the way you wanted, they somehow never satisfied your expectations. Even though the plans we have in our heads sound marvelous and well thought out, God’s already five steps ahead of you with an even better plan. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this the hard way but once I have complied and learned to desire His will and plans for my life, it’s provided so much peace and freedom. God’s got this! He’s got your best interest in mind!
Give God ALL the Glory// The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that God deserves all the glory. I remember always asking myself “what is your purpose in life?” So many young people try to navigate through their lives trying to determine what that very purpose is. Is it to be a doctor, a teacher, a nurse, a mom…? I’ve come to realize that we focus so much entirely on worldly success that we forget what the number one purpose is for why God put us on this planet. That very answer is found in the place we tend to skip over…the Bible. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Our very purpose is to go out and make disciples of ALL nations. Our ONLY PURPOSE given by God is to make disciples and to give God ALL the glory in all we do. After all, He’s the only one that has authority over the Heavens and the Earth and deserves all of our praise. He loved us so much that He sent his ONLY son to die for us. The least we can do is give Him the glory in all we do and live our lives for His sake! So, Maren, don’t find your purpose in empty worldly things but instead, find your purpose in the eternal. After all, eternity is much longer than our time on this earth.
I hope you take these lessons of mine to heart and choose Jesus above all else. He is our firm foundation and if He is for us, what could be against us?! I sure wish I had known these things 10-15 years ago because I would have been saved from a bunch of wasted time and heartache. Always remember, though, that Jesus takes broken things (all of us) and does miraculous things with them. His purpose for you is so much better than the purpose you ever had for yourself! Run to Him and live for him!
Welcome to the third trimester! I never thought this time would come! I’m finally on the downward slope towards meeting my little boy and I can hardly wait…only 12 weeks away! Can it come any sooner?! Second half of pregnancy has definitely been way more exciting than the first half so I’m trying to enjoy every minute of these last 12 weeks because I’m sure they will go faster (even though it doesn’t feel like it)!
Some big things I’m experiencing these days are: Baby Kicks/Movements: Oh the baby kicks! I can’t get enough of them!! I definitely know what other pregnant women were talking about when they said that feeling the baby move was the best part of pregnancy. It definitely is the best part of pregnancy, hands down! I love feeling him move inside me. It’s such a special bond that we have because it’s something that no one else will ever be able to experience. It’s just me and my boy! Glucose Screening Test// Oh the nerves! Gestational Diabetes has been at the forefront of my mind since I got pregnant. Though I don’t really have anyone in my family that’s been diagnosed with Diabetes nor do I have any predisposition factors for it, I was so nervous about it because I just didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard of some very healthy people that had been diagnosed with GD and a lot of my friends failed the screening test but passed the three hour tolerance test so I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I pass or would I fail? Well, last Friday gave me my answer. I downed that little Glucose drink in 5 minutes and, lo and behold, several hours later, I found that I passed it with flying colors! Thank you, Jesus! What a sigh of relief it’s been. I may have celebrated with some ice cream! 🙂 My Ever-ChangingBody// I have to say, I never really struggled with body image too much, however, I’ve never felt more comfortable and beautiful in my own skin then I have since I’ve been pregnant. Before pregnancy, I always thought about how I needed to eat healthy and continually work out to stay in shape and that any ounce of belly fat was a sign that I needed to refine what I was putting in my body. However, pregnancy has given me such a confidence because my ever changing body is proof of how cool God’s design of a woman is! I love seeing how my body knows exactly how to grow a little life and it does it involuntarily without any conscious effort on my part! The changes I’m experiencing are totally normal and are a sign of something positive. I guess this is how I should always look at myself, pregnant or not. Right?! Exercise// Or lack thereof! I decided that in second trimester I’d start trying to exercise again because I know how important it is to stay in shape and prepare for that day of delivery. I started doing some maternity and prenatal workouts, however, my body was just not having it! A day or so after working out my feet would ache and I’d have a lot of lower back pain and achy hips that made it hard for me to sleep. After consistently trying to exercise for a couple weeks and getting the same results, I decided that exercise just isn’t going to be a part of my life until after delivery. The most I’ve been able to handle is walking with Zach and the dogs. As much as I miss being sore and pushing myself to be better while working out, I think I’m just going to try and enjoy this time of being exercise free until after pregnancy. I will enjoy my newfound laziness….after all, it won’t last forever!
Since I’m entering third trimester, I thought it would be fun to share my bump journey thus far. I’ve been documenting my bump growth since I found out I was pregnant and it’s brought me great joy to see the growth! This definitely isn’t something I ever want to forget so I’m sharing it with you! Sorry for the poor quality. In retrospect, I should have had Zach take weekly and creative photos of me…oh well!
It’s been 7 months. 7 months since we lost our first little babe. It feels like it’s been a lifetime since the miscarriage happened but at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday. So much has been jam packed into 2018 that I forget to stop and think about all that we have been through as a couple since January. So much molding and growing in such a short time. It’s almost as if we’ve packed two years of life into a short half year’s time. God sure knows how to force us to grow and lean into Him!
Now, 7 months later, joy fills my heart as I feel my precious little gift from God move about freely in my womb. I can’t even begin to describe the love I have for this little boy and most importantly, I’m just so thankful that God chose Zach and I to be this little guy’s parents! I can’t wait to see what he looks like, how he smells, what his personality will be like, what mannerisms he will acquire and most importantly, how his love for God will develop (God willing). It’s easy to replace the pain and grief I had experienced for several months with the excitement and joy I’m now experiencing with this pregnancy, however, that grief and pain somehow find ways to creep back into my life at random times.
I remember when we first experienced the loss, I sobbed and sobbed for weeks on end. Waking up each morning felt like I had awoken after having the perfect dream and realizing that my life was far from perfect. I couldn’t fight back the tears. The pain was always the worst in the morning. However, after a good, solid three weeks or so, the pain started to lessen, or at least become manageable. It had lessened enough that I could at least function at work, attend events and spend time with friends without it consuming all of my thoughts. And when I found out I was pregnant in April, the pain was almost completely shielded by the joy and excitement I had with this new pregnancy! Almost. To be honest, the majority of my pregnancy, I haven’t struggled with the grief too much. I’ve mostly been so focused on growing this little human that I’ve almost forgotten about our first little person that left us much too early. It almost makes me feel guilty when I think about it like that. How could I forget such a special little soul that God had designed just for us? The only reassurance I have about it is that our little babe is now rejoicing with God in Heaven! Our little babe is in the arms of our perfect Father.
Over the last several months I’ve learned that my pain and grief resurfaces the most when I experience loss and grief through the eyes of others. Going through a miscarriage has definitely allowed me to be more compassionate towards others who have experienced infertility or loss. This year, I’ve known a couple who lost their baby due to some developmental complications and I’ve also known a woman who has, year after year, yearned for a child of her own, only to still be empty handed. As these people shared their experiences with me, while fighting back tears, it brought so many feelings, that I thought were long gone, back to the surface. I’m reminded that my pain and grief hasn’t disappeared yet and I’ve only just cracked the surface on healing. They are not long gone like I had thought but are still a very present struggle in my life.
I once, a couple years ago, prayed that God would soften my heart and allow me to become more compassionate toward others. I never thought that God would change my heart in such a drastic way but by golly, that’s exactly what He’s done! I believe that God has taught me to become compassionate to those experiencing loss and infertility. The verse, Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” has become my template in walking through life with people who have experienced, are experiencing or will experience the pain of infertility and loss.
So, to define this blog post’s title, does the pain and grief of loss or waiting ever go away? No, I don’t think it does. However, I think God will continue to heal me and lessen the pain so that I can use it as a way for me to make a difference in someone else’s life. Even though my grief and pain are still very present, I think that I can use them as a means to walking through life with others who’ve suffered similarly to me. I think that it gives me an opportunity to point those who are in pain and struggling to see God’s goodness and faithfulness to Him and to share the fullness I’ve experienced in Him through all of this. After all, as Christ followers, we are not promised a trial-free life but through those trials, we can be made right with God and end up on top of it all stronger than we were before! If I can use this pain I’ve experienced as a way to glorify God, then as much as it hurts, it’s all worth it for Him!
So, I may be a couple months late (excuse the pregnancy brain) on sharing this but better late than never! On June 3rd, Jen and I threw a baby shower for our sweet friend, Laura and her baby girl, Kennedy (who made her debut on July 30th. Yay!). I take great pride in planning special baby showers for all my pregnant friends and so I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share that day with all of you…even if it’s a couple months late!
I’ve known Laura for about a year and a half or so and since getting to know her style, seeing her home decor and getting an idea of the style baby shower she wanted, we decided to do a Boho-themed baby shower! Although she was aware of the theme (and was nice enough to allow me to borrow some of her home decor), we were able to pull it off while still giving her an element of surprise on her shower day! Since both Jen and I tried to be budget-friendly with this shower, I thought I’d share with you some of the details I was most proud of at the shower and how we tried to stay on budget!
Some budget-friendly details I was proud of: Flower Crown// This is one thing that Laura specifically asked for and I knew that I wasn’t crafty enough to make one myself, so Etsy to the rescue! I believe this one was only $18! I thought this accessory made Laura’s outfit match the theme of the shower perfectly! Ribbon Banner// In Boho-style fashion, I saw a lot of great ideas for ribbon and tassle banners. After looking online for various prices on the banners that were $35+, I decided to head to Wal-Mart and pick up four different kinds of ribbon that fit our style. Jen had the twine and we were able to make the adorable ribbon banner for Laura’s chair in ten minutes or so and for less than $10! Photobooth Backdrop// After falling in love with some ideas on Pinterest of a macrame backdrop, I couldn’t convince myself to spend $100+ on one from Urban Outfitters. Props to Jen for finding these awesome curtains for $1 at a garage sale! They fit our budget-friendly goals and style perfectly! Greenery// I found the greenery at Marshall’s and decided that I couldn’t pass it up for the baby shower! Both Jen and I had some fun ideas of using greenery as part of the photobooth backdrop. Once I found that, I knew it would be perfect! At $25, I decided to buckle down and purchase it. Laura ended up taking it home with her and making an adorable wreath in Kennedy’s nursery afterwards so it was well worth the price!
I can’t believe I am halfway through my pregnancy already! Part of me feels like it has gone by quickly and the other part of me feels like it’s taken a lifetime to get here! Either way, I’m so thankful we are that much closer to getting to meet our little babe in December! This is a relatively huge milestone for us, not just because we are halfway but also because we had our 20 week morphology scan today which was both exciting and terrifying for two reasons.
1. Do we have a healthy baby?!// My faith in God has definitely grown (and needs to grow much more) since being pregnant because I’ve realized that I literally have no control on any outcome of my pregnancy. I can’t tell you the amount of anxiety and worry I’ve had leading up to this ultrasound because I feared that the ultrasound technician would find something concerning or abnormal with our little babe. I’ve known several people who have had bad things happen to their baby later in gestation so that makes it feel a little “closer to home” and that it could happen to us. However, I’ve been reminding myself over and over of God’s goodness, faithfulness and his unconditional love for our family. Why should I let the devil steal my joy and time with my baby right now? Why allow these fears to master me when they might not even be legitimate concerns? We had a sermon on Psalm 139 on Sunday and let me tell you what…Jesus has been rocking my world through these verses since then! Verse 16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.” I clung to this verse while I was in the waiting room at the OB office. Jesus knew every little detail about our sweet little babe even before it was even a perfectly shaped embryo! What an encouragement it was to take that verse with me as I walked into the ultrasound. By God’s grace, the ultrasound technician said that our baby was measuring one day ahead of where we currently are in gestation and that she did not see anything of concern! What an absolute relief! It felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders after that appointment!
I’m still working on believing and trusting in Him fully throughout the rest of this pregnancy because, in the long run, those anxieties will only magnify once baby makes their grand debut. But, what an encouragement it is to know how deeply the Father loves us and all the plans He has for our little baby all ready! He’s knitting this little squirt in my womb as we speak and our babe is fearfully and wonderfully made. What an awesome reminder to take with me throughout the second half of this journey!
2. Baby Fleer is…//Finding out the gender was definitely the most exciting part of our morphology scan, for sure! Zach and I opted not to do the genetic testing at our 11 week appointment, so, because of that, we had to wait until our 20 week ultrasound to find out the gender! I was so excited to find out because, let’s be real…I’m ready to shop and decorate the nursery! Ever since the beginning of this pregnancy, Zach had a feeling that were were having a girl! He’s guessed genders right for many of our friends prior to their gender reveals and his feelings have always been right! We even performed some old wives tales tests to figure out if it was a girl or boy. We performed the pencil test (dangling a #2 pencil from a string over my wrist [our neighbors swear by this one]) and the ring test (dangling my wedding ring with a string over my stomach) and both of them solidified our feelings that we are having a girl! Even the wives tale about fetal heartbeats revealed that we were having a girl. That wives tale was correct for my friend, Laura’s baby, too! Along with Zach’s feelings that it was a girl, we became more confident about it when both of my parents had a feeling that it was a girl too (even a dream revealing that it was a girl). We even have our girl name picked out! So, really, our morphology scan was just solidifying what we already knew…baby Fleer was indeed a girl! Right…?! As the technician scanned over our little babe and revealed the gender, I was shocked when she pasted the words, “It’s a BOY!” on the screen! Tears of joy welled up in my eyes as soon as I saw that ultrasound picture. I looked over at Zach and he had the biggest grin on his face while he said, “I guess I was wrong!” He always envisioned himself having a boy when he was younger but with our difficulty to get pregnant prior to this, we were both just so happy to have A healthy baby! The gender didn’t matter to us. But, now, that we officially know the gender, we now have a future little hunter we are looking forward to meeting in December! I can’t wait to kiss that little boy’s cheeks and see if he acquires his daddy’s red hair and smart aleck personality! 🙂 Praising God for our little son.
Happy Tuesday, my friends! Today, I bring you a guest post from my friend, Kira Ouellette. Kira and I worked together in Kansas City and we soon bonded over our love for the Lord and desire to seek Him in the midst of marriage and parenthood. She currently resides in rural Kansas with her husband and two year old and is passionate about studying scripture. She was reminded the other day that our souls should be thirsting on more than just day-to-day duties but on God Himself. Great perspective!
What are some of those things in life that just feel amazing? You know, the flip-side of your pillow or a sit in a hot tub while snowflakes come tumbling down on your eyelashes… I realized one of these things today that I will indulge in more frequently now that I’ve found it!
Today’s thought comes to you from my work out cool down. Today is July 9, 2018. Temperature is 97 with a heat index of 105. I get my run in for the day during my daughter’s afternoon nap AKA ~2pm. It’s the hottest part of the day but that’s my opportunity and a mommy has to do what a mommy has to do – right? At the end of my workout my fingers are pulsing and almost throbbing while I swing my arms walking, working to cool down and lower my heart rate. No, this is not one of those amazing feelings I was asking about earlier, but it’s a prerequisite.
After my ‘cool down’, if you can call it a ‘cool down’ while it’s still 105 degrees outside, I go inside and go straight to the kitchen sink. I know that my time is running away and soon my 2-year-old will be up from her nap and my time to myself will be gone. I need to get to work on my secretary stuff today but I’m drenched in sweat and even my hands are sopping. I need to get at least my hands clean so I can return to working on other things, so I turn on the cold water. WOW! That feeling of the cold water rushing over my sweaty hands was completely amazing! I couldn’t help myself. I stood there several minutes in the cold water thinking of how much relief it was bringing. Something so simple was more satisfying than my morning cup of coffee. It was a cool relief after my 40 minute work-out in the sweltering heat.
I got to thinking today about how just as my hands and body need that refreshing moment to cool down, my soul needs refreshing daily as well. I stay home with my little, take care of a garden, look over the animals, secretary for a Christian Rodeo organization, try to keep the house clean and meals on the table etc. Moms (and wives) do this on a daily basis. We have our hands so full that we run ourselves ragged nearly every day.
I need daily time with the Lord to renew my strength and to renew my soul. The days I go without time in my Bible spent with Jesus, I find myself wearing out easier, having a shorter fuse, and being much more selfish. Rather than fruit, my life is producing weeds. I’m not able to filter my to-do list and everything seems equally important.
Without my focus being on the Lord, I can’t function well in my day. The Lord is my strength and my cornerstone. When I rely on him, I find that I can be more patient and I can see windows of opportunity that the Lord provides. I do believe that with a Godly focus, I can filter my to-do list and realize what is important and what can wait. God is so good, he is my rock. Nothing else in this world is as stable as my Lord. I need time with him daily just to function in what the day brings.
Lamentations 3:22-24 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion, “says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
God’s mercies are new every morning and it’s something I need daily! I can’t expect to do well being a mom and wife with an impact if I don’t let the Lord impact me first and foremost.
Food for thought: What is your soul thirsty for today? What are you trying to fill your soul with that isn’t actually filling you up? God’s mercies are new every morning and He’s always there waiting for you to come and drink.