Friendship Photoshoot Made in His Image

Over the last several months, I have been wanting a Digital SLR Camera. I have always enjoyed photography and especially good quality pictures of family and nature that I could hang proudly on my wall as decor. I contemplated asking for one for Christmas, but I had a couple other things on my list that I wanted first, so I figured I’d save up my money, research which camera I wanted and ask for it for my birthday. After doing research and asking several of my photographer friends, it was recommended to invest in a Nikon D3300. Since the moment I got it, I’ve been taking it out to photograph scenery when Zach and I would take the dogs on a walk and I’ve been so desperately wanting to take photos of people and especially fashion-style looks also. Well, I finally got the opportunity to suck one of my good friends, Jennifer, into doing a photoshoot with me to practice with my camera! I had envisioned going downtown or taking them at a park, but since Jennifer has quite a few acres at her house, perfect outdoor scenery and, not to mention, two novice photographers, we opted to take them at her place.

When we started shooting pictures of each other, after several, we’d quickly review them to ensure they’d get our stamp of approval. There were times where I’d look at myself in those pictures and then look at that long legged, thinly structured, blonde bombshell that is my friend, Jen and start comparing myself to her as if I wasn’t good enough. Thoughts and lies began to flood my mind, ” I don’t have a thigh gap, I have super thick, really short legs, my arms aren’t toned like they used to be and rather large, I can see last night’s Andy’s Frozen Custard in my stomach…Man, am I really that pale?” But then, I was reminded that we are all made in God’s image!

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them.” In today’s society it is so hard to be a woman, not to mention, a woman that represents biblical truth. Women today are so easily distracted by this unrealistic idea of what our society thinks a woman should have or possess. Trust me, I’ve definitely been one of those women. I’ve been that girl who spends hours looking through Instagram and Facebook at all these beautiful women who look flawless in every picture- perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect body, perfect outfit, perfect children, perfect husband, perfect life- and then would wonder if I’d ever compare. It’s so easy to get to that place. But then, I stop myself and realize I have Jesus and His saving grace to rest in! God made us in His image so that, though we are all different in physical appearance, we could continue to become more like Him every single day spiritually. We have to come to realize that we will NEVER be perfect (much to every perfectionist’s dismay), but with Jesus in our hearts, we can strive to be more Christ-like in every part of our lives.

So, I share these photos with you all! We had such a blast experimenting and playing around with my camera. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how these have turned out. Not to mention, when I look at them now, I am so comforted knowing that when God looks at me, he sees my beauty and my worth, not my dress size and my physical imperfections. I am beautiful. Jennifer is beautiful. These pictures of us are beautiful. God is even more beautiful. Don’t let a secular society dictate how you feel about yourself or how you look at others, remember you’re made in God’s image. Rejoice in that!

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“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:26

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

 

27th Birthday!

I am officially late in sharing this but on March 30, I turned 27. I still can’t believe that I’m already in my late 20s and only a few years away from the Big 3-0! Throughout my life, I’ve always had plans of where I thought I’d be at age 27. I always thought I’d own a house with several acres, own some horses and have a couple kids, however, God’s plans have been quite a bit different! As it turns out, Zach and I are still renting a house (while trying to pay off the rest of my student loans), we live in a neighborhood and we, unfortunately, don’t have any children yet. But, as I look at my life the way it is right now, I couldn’t imagine anything different! Needless to say, 27 has started out better than I could have imagined and I look forward to the opportunities and experiences my 27th year will hold!

Well, my birthday was nothing short of special! I woke up fairly early (5:30am) to get some Bible time in. Soon after, Zach got up and surprised me with some Cinnamon Life cereal! We’ve recently stopped buying cereal just because we have been trying to have healthier breakfasts, so getting this was a huge treat!
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Earlier in the week, one of my friends, Lexi, so generously gave me a Starbucks gift card. Needless to say, I gladly stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. It made my day at work just a little better!

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When you work in Oncology at the Vet Hospital and you have the co-workers I do, you can guarantee you’ll have a birthday celebration all for you! I came in to the clinic and everyone in the Oncology room sang happy birthday to me! Everyone chipped in and brought in some birthday desserts and a potluck for lunch, although, due to the generous donation of a client, we all had catered Panera instead! Yum, yum!

I worked some extra hours a couple days before so I could leave at 1:30! I spent some of that time getting my nails done. By dinner time, Zach had surprised me by taking me to Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen (one of my favorite restaurants). Little did I know that another surprise was awaiting me: two of our couple friends, Kendall and Laura, and Stephanie and Kyle, were waiting at Cheddar’s to have dinner with me! Man, what a way to make a girl feel special!

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Oh, and the guys were “too cool” to get their pictures taken, so it was just us girls! And, just to finish off a great birthday, we had to stop at Andy’s Frozen Custard! If you know me, ice cream is an obsession, especially from Andy’s!

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My birthday was so simple, but a day with absolutely no complaints! 27 started out with a bang! I’m so thankful for the friendships and experiences I acquired during my 26th year, but I’m optimistic that 27 will be my best year yet! Thank you to my friends that came and celebrated with me on my birthday, but also to those that I couldn’t be with on that day. I love you all!

How Do I Study Scripture, Anyways?

Back in 2014 when Zach and I were going through the first membership class ever of Emmaus Church, it was made embarrassingly clear to me how little I truly knew about my Christian faith. I sat there listening to our impeccably brilliant elders teaching the history of the Bible, such as, how each of the books were separated into genres, the importance of textual transmission, the belief that the scripture is inerrant and about different approaches to translation, just to name a few. I remember leaving that first membership session, almost in tears, thinking “Maren, you’re 24 years old and you know absolutely nothing about the Bible or God!” It was incredibly embarrassing as I prided myself throughout my life as being a “good Christian.” I could feel the Holy Spirit stirring within me showing me just how far off I truly was from knowing Him. It was at this time in 2014 that I knew I needed to learn more about Jesus and to start actually pursuing Him.

The hardest part about starting to pursue Jesus was figuring out where to start. I had read my Bible throughout my life but it was always in the form of reading or skimming through random books of the Bible, never actually attempting to learn about any of it. When I started wanting to learn more, I’d find myself completely overwhelmed, unsure where to even start. I asked myself multiple questions, such as, “What book should I start in?” or “Is there a devotional I should read?” or “How do I even study the Bible?” Well, thank God for my mother-in-law (because I do believe God led her to share this book with me) who gifted me the book Women of the WordThis book provided me with an easily planned guide to studying scripture and I absolutely fell in love with it as it revolutionized the way I studied.

In 2014, I would have loved it if someone would have shared with me their ways of studying scripture. So today, I’d love to share the way I study scripture with you! Below, are multiple ways that have been helpful to me in my scripture studying.  Some of these are based on the Women of the Word, but some of them are things I’ve discovered my own.

Ways to better understand a passage in scripture:
(1) First of all, I always begin studying at the beginning of a book in the Bible. It’s easier to take the book in context and understand it as a whole instead of starting somewhere in the middle.
(2) If you have a study bible, I’d suggest reading the overview of the book before starting, just to get an idea of the time the book was written and who the author of the book was.
(3) Print out a copy of the particular passage you are wanting to study. I usually copy and paste the passage from biblegateway.com into Word or Pages (on Macs) and make it double spaced. That way it’s easy to write in the margins and in between the lines.
(4) Reread the text again and again. The more a text is read, the easier it is for us to understand a main point.
(5) Make note of words, phrases or ideas that are repeated over and over. I usually make a key to help me remember what each color (pens and highlighters) represents during my studying.
(6) Compare different translations to help understand a word or sentence that might be confusing. Thank you God for the Bible App!
(7) Use a dictionary and/or Vine’s Dictionary (for people and places). I never realized how many words I skipped over that I never truly understood until I started looking up every single word I wasn’t sure about. Man, understanding a word has made a HUGE difference!
(8) Review the passage through the SOAP Acronym. If you’ve never heard of SOAP, it stands for S-scripture, O-observation, A-application, P-prayer. For Scripture, I generally just paraphrase what the passage is about; Observation, I make observations about things that stood out to me; Application, I pull out things from the passage that I can apply to my life today; and finally, I pray about what I have read over and what I have learned in the passages I’ve studied. I love this acronym because it really allows me to pull out something relatable to my life in each passage I study.

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Lastly, I believe community is the most important part of studying scripture! I believe it’s incredibly important to have someone mentoring and discipling you throughout your walk who’s further along in their faith journey than you (I didn’t realize how much this would help my growth until I had a mentor) and to also have friends that are walking right along with you in your faith journey to hold you accountable!
At the beginning of the year, my best friend, Kira and I decided to start studying the book of Acts. Every week we email or talk on the phone to discuss our revelations about the chapter(s) we’ve studied. It has been so nice to have her doing this with me and it has really made an impact in both of our lives!
Additionally, I am currently being mentored and discipled by Sarah, our pastor’s wife at our church. Every Sunday afternoon she has been sitting down with me to show me how she studies scripture (which is very different than what I have shared with you) and also just to discuss our faith journeys and any questions I have. It’s so nice to have someone further along in her faith pouring into me and discipling me as I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

I encourage you all to find individuals you can share your faith journey with and to also find someone who is ahead of you in their walk with Christ to help you as you grow! Do you currently do Bible studies with friends? Have you been studying scripture? Have you found a study technique that works for you? I hope that my study techniques have helped give you more of an idea of how you can best study the Word!