Lessons from 6 Years of Marriage

On June 11, Zach and I will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! To say that it has flown by is an understatement. There are days I can’t believe that we’ve been married six years and then there are others where I am amazed how much life we have crammed into these six years. As I reminisce back to June 11, 2011, I not only think about how perfect a day it was but also how much I’ve changed and matured since then. I was just 21 when Zach and I tied the knot and though I was more mature than the majority of 21 year olds, I still had a lot of growing up to do. I’m so thankful that God provided me with a loving and nurturing husband that was willing to give me grace through the times where the growing pains not only affected me but him as well.

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Six years later, I can say that I am even more in love with my wonderful Zach than the day I said “I Do” and that could only be possible because of my relationship with God. The more I get to know Him, the more I see how a successful marriage should mirror that of God’s bride… the church. The more I’ve matured in my faith journey and relationship with God, the more lessons I’ve learned about how to love Zach just as Jesus intended.

The following are some lessons that I’ve learned over the years on what has made a successful, biblical marriage for Zach and I.

Love each other. Not everyday is going to be rainbows and butterflies in marriage but loving each other despite our sinful ways has allowed us to overcome conflicts in our marriage. Since we are sinners, it’s guaranteed that we will hurt each other but I’ve chosen to love Zach daily no matter how he may make me feel.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8

Respect. Although submitting to Zach hasn’t ever been much of a struggle for me, I’ve always tried to be intentional about respecting the opinions and decisions he’s made about our life. Zach is my spiritual leader and I trust that his decisions are based fully on his biblical wisdom and knowledge.
Ephesians 5:22-23 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

Becoming our own “Family.” This was probably one of the toughest things for me to learn as a wife. Growing up, I’ve always been super close to my family. I even moved to Missouri to go to college here even though I was accepted to a university in South Carolina to be closer to my family when they moved. Even after a few years of marriage, I’d cry every single time I left my parents house. For some reason, I could never seem to let go of the attachment I had with my parents. Zach used to say, “Maren, I’m your family now.” Growing in my faith, I began to be convicted by Matthew 19:5-6 but it wasn’t until after my parents moved 14 hours away that I began to detach and wholeheartedly become a “family” with Zach which has strengthened our relationship significantly.
Matthew 19:5-6 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Being Modest. I grew up in a home with a mother that dressed very flamboyantly. My mom has always been stylish in her dress and I’ve closely followed her suit. However, I have been guilty of taking my flamboyant dress a little too far in that it may have not reflected how a godly wife should dress and present herself. Zach has brought that to my attention multiple times throughout our marriage but I hadn’t really felt convicted of it until recently when I studied through 1 Timothy. God has changed my heart to see that dressing modestly is respectful to my husband and that I should respect his opinion of the way I dress.
1 Timothy 2:9-10 “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments..”

Communication. I have a husband who is painfully quiet. He thinks about things internally for quite sometime before ever bringing them up and may sometimes forget to share important information with me. I used to get frustrated and would allow it to lead to lots of unnecessary arguments. The longer I’ve been married, the longer I’ve realized that communication is extremely important. Over six years, our communication has improved quite a bit.
Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Be slow to anger. One characteristic I am not proud of is that I can have a bit of a temper. When I was younger it was much worse. Nothing used to separate Zach and I more than when I allowed my temper to overcome me. I still struggle with this issue, but the Bible reminds me to be slow to anger. I’ve learned that whenever I become frustrated, I should calm down before I actually speak and show grace to Zach during times he may cause me to get angry.
James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”

Pursue God together. The most important thing I’ve learned about marriage is that pursuing the Lord together allows us to become more sanctified. This has been a beautiful lesson to learn together. Since we’ve been members of Anthem, we have both grown in our faith drastically and have been given the opportunity to pursue ministry together. What a blessing it has been to do this together!
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

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That is just a small list of some of the lessons that have allowed Zach and I to have a wonderful six years but it’s definitely not all of them. I’m still a work in progress. God is still molding me into the godly wife he designed me to be. I’m so thankful for Zach and I’m looking forward to many more happy years together! Happy 6th Anniversary, Zacharias! I love you!

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

 

 

 

 

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!

First Day of Spring

When I am out in nature, I am constantly reminded of God’s hand in all of creation.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” -Job 12:7-10
I can learn so much from the animals and the land. I am a constant worrier, unfortunately. Even if there isn’t something to worry about, I somehow am able to find something to be anxious over. These verses are a great reminder to me that God’s hand is in all of it. I’m thankful that I can be out adventuring with my family and find peace and hope by just experiencing God’s creation! Last week, for the first day of spring, I was able to do just that!

Missouri’s weather is always so variable in the months of January through March. We can expect anything from 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing to spring-like conditions at 65 to 75 degrees! Luckily, this year, we had perfect weather on the first day of Spring! It was in the upper 70s so Zach and I took advantage of taking the dogs on a walk! We absolutely enjoy exploring all of the wonderful Conservation Areas that Missouri has to offer. One of our favorites is Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. It is so close to Columbia and is just absolutely gorgeous! The dogs love being able to swim and run in the wide open spaces and we always enjoy the view. Here are a few pictures of our little adventure earlier this week!fullsizeoutput_f41

There’s nothing like a man and his dogs.

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I love seeing the joy on Cooper’s face when we take him swimming!

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We have been watching my in-law’s Dachshund, Sassy. She enjoyed the adventure!

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I sure love this man and all the adventures we go on together!

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I just love this picture of Sassy! She is older, so it’s nice to take her on these little adventures while she is still able.

 

 

Why Start a Blog?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Creating a blog has been a thought in the back of my mind for several years now. I’ve always had the desire to start one but have convinced myself otherwise. Between self-doubt and lack of a “vision” for a blog, it has never seemed to come to fruition…until now.

One reason for starting this blog has been mostly in part due to my faith journey. I have grown in my faith and my spiritual journey more in the last three years then in my entire life. The multiple moves Zach and I have done in a span of 5 years have been both exciting and challenging all at the same time. We’ve moved from Columbia, Missouri to Stockton, Missouri to Kansas City, Missouri and finally back to Columbia, Missouri. In each of these cities my faith has grown a little bit more, especially since I’ve moved back to Columbia. Zach and I got connected and committed to the planting of Anthem Church. I can’t even begin to describe the love I have for this church and the people that are a part of it! The people of Anthem Church are some of the Godliest people I’ve ever known; each of them deeply committed to sharing the Gospel and discipling other Christians. Being a part of this body of believers has challenged and grown me in my faith more in the last nine months then ever in my life. I sure have a long way to go in my faith journey but the passion I have for Christ has led me to wanting to share the joy I’ve found in Him through this blog!

Another reason for starting this blog is to share some of my favorite moments in life with you! My husband, Zach, is one of the biggest hunters and outdoor enthusiasts you’ll ever meet. Besides his faith in God, I don’t think something makes up Zach more than the outdoors. Since we’ve been together, we’ve had some fun and exciting adventures in the great outdoors! I’ve always enjoyed being out in nature but Zach has definitely brought out some hidden interests in me: hunting, fishing and archery. I’d love to share with you these new-found passions and adventures that have brought me such joy over the last eight years!

The last reason for starting this blog is to share some of my clothing styles with you! I’ve always been passionate about clothes, shoes, purses and accessories and I’d love to share some of my favorite looks with you all!

I’m excited to see this vision of starting a blog become a reality. I’ve named this blog, Clothed in Strength, based on Proverbs 31 because a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. I want to be that woman. I hope that I can be a light in this dark, dark world through the hope of Jesus! Thanks for stopping by and joining me in my journey in this so-called LIFE!