God is Still & Always Working

It is the beginning of April and if you would have said a few short months ago that we would be on lockdown from the COVID-19 virus outbreak in the US, I would have thought you were nuts! But, here we are, going on three weeks of the Missouri statewide (and now nationally) mandated order to stay-at-home in hopes of “flattening the curve” of Caronavirus cases and not overwhelming our healthcare systems. Though I’m thankful that Missouri has been a more proactive state on flattening the curve and this week I’ve been more encouraged about what our new foreseeable future looks like, this has been one of the hardest seasons I think I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. God has definitely been using this tough season to strengthen my faith and trust in Him. It’s been a tough season not only because of the COVID-19 virus but it’s also been made tough in regards to our baby girl’s health.

In the previous two blog posts, I gave an update about finding out that we are expecting a little girl in July but also that the ultrasound initially showed that our girl’s ventricles in her brain were outside normal measurements. This is called Mild Ventriculomegaly. We were referred to a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist and were told that this finding could be associated with genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, Trisomy 13, 18, etc. You can read about those updates here and here. Since those two blog posts were written, my follow-up ultrasound at 24 weeks was on March 31. Their goal was to get more photos of our girl’s head and to monitor the size of the ventricles in her brain. There was a 90% chance that she’d grow out of the Mild Ventriculomegaly and after receiving our bloodwork a few weeks before which showed that she was Low Risk (basically negative; a 1 in 10,000 chance) for all genetic abnormalities, I felt much more at peace going into the ultrasound knowing that our girl was healthy. The anxiety prone person that I am would usually still be thinking “what if her ventricles still aren’t normal despite the bloodwork?” but I do believe over the last month God has really shown me that all I can really do is to trust Him and just let Him take care of everything. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Zach and Titus were not allowed to accompany me to this ultrasound. Though, I do believe God truly gave me peace over the last few weeks, I was confident going into it alone knowing that everything would be just fine!

The ultrasound went great and she cooperated so they could get all the additional photos they needed of her little body! The MFM doctor took a look at the ultrasound photos of her brain and they were within normal measurements! He gave me the happiest news when he said that our girl was HEALTHY and that we no longer had to follow-up with him throughout this pregnancy! What a sigh of relief! I can’t help but thank God for His goodness and just taking care of us throughout this difficult season.

Our sweet baby girl! Zach and I think she looks so similar to her big brother, Titus!

Because of the many discouraging things going on right now with the COVID-19 outbreak and the last month of not knowing what the future would hold with the state of our girl’s health, it’s been hard to see anything as positive. I’ve been guilty of having this mindset far too often. BUT, our girl’s health has been a great reminder to me over the course of this last month that GOD IS STILL AND ALWAYS WORKING even when we can’t see it. The year 2020 has been quite the rollercoaster already but it has never been anything God hasn’t been in control of. In fact, He’s been in control of this whole crazy season all along and STILL IS.

Though God has been taking us all through a similar season of difficulty with the viral outbreak, I’ve really been reminded and encouraged of all the WORK GOD IS DOING around us right now. The fact that our baby girl is healthy is proof that God has been working, not just because she is healthy but because through this, He has strengthened our faith and trust in Him. The fact that there are so many people out there working on the front lines to protect us is proof that God is working. The fact that I see almost daily on my social media newsfeed that babies are still being born healthy in hospitals during a pandemic and that people are being healed from far worse medical issues is proof that God is working. The fact that people are still deciding to get pregnant during a pandemic is proof that God is working. The fact that people are drawing nearer to God in a time such as this is proof that God is working. Guys, God is working miracles in front of our eyes!! We just need to open our eyes to see the awesome work He’s currently doing and stop allowing the devil to divert our thoughts to the things we have no control over. It’s been so reassuring to me how God is using this time of suffering to draw His people (and those who don’t yet know Him) closer to Himself just through the very stories I’ve read, heard about and mentioned above. So, I hope that if you are currently feeling discouraged, fearful or unsure of what the next few months hold, just remember that God has got this and He IS and ALWAYS WILL BE WORKING! Our future is full of hope because GOD CONTINUES TO GO BEFORE US! Feel free to reach out to me if you need prayer or encouragement during this time. I’d love to pray for you and offer up a virtual hug! Love you all and am looking forward to seeing how God will continue to work through this season of life!

We’ve really enjoyed our nightly routine of family walks!
Baby girl at 25 weeks.

Update on our Little Girl

Last week, after our 20 week ultrasound, we received concerns about our little girl’s ventricles in her brain and how they were slightly outside the normal range (and by slightly, I mean by 1 mm) and because they were outside normal range, there were concerns that she could be at risk for genetic abnormalities like Trisomy 13, 18, 21 (Down Syndrome) and sex chromosome abnormalities. You can read last week’s updates here. Although there was a 90% (or higher) chance that she was perfectly healthy, they recommended I do the prenatal blood screening for these abnormalities. So, Zach and I both decided that we’d go ahead and get that blood test for further confirmation that our girl was healthy. We were told that it could take up to 10 business days to receive our results.

Oh my goodness, let me tell you….waiting 1 day, let alone 10 days, has been BRUTAL. A time of waiting, living in a state of unknown has definitely been a spiritually growing and trying time for me. This last week has been a test of my faith, for sure. Despite having two doctors optimistic that our girl would be healthy, despite the high percentage rate (90%) of babies being born healthy with larger than normal ventricles, despite the fact that they did not see any other physical abnormalities in the ultrasound, despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that my baby girl is most likely healthy, my faith has definitely been tested. I’ve felt like a rollercoaster of emotions over the past 10 days. One minute I’m at peace and confident that God is keeping our girl healthy and safe, the next moment I’m on the train to “What-if town” and imagining the worst case scenario. It’s been a constant fight to remain steadfast in my faith and trusting that God has got it all taken care of. I know that day by day he’s been chiseling me into a more godly version of the woman He wants me to become and I’m thankful for that but that doesn’t mean it’s come without painful hiccups and bumps along the way. There is nothing worth fighting for that isn’t going to come with challenges, especially when it comes to trusting God in the unknown. If we want to grow spiritually, unfortunately, trials like these are the best way to toughen us up a bit and to be one step closer to an unfailing faith. So here I am, pushing through this trial, not as gracefully as I’d like to but fighting through it to become a stronger woman of faith!

Well, folks, our waiting finally came to a close this afternoon. After waiting 6 out of the 10 proposed business days for the genetic screening results, a nurse from the Maternal-Fetal Medicine department finally called and gave me the message I have been waiting to hear for the last 10 days! Our baby girl’s results were NEGATIVE for every marker they tested for! That means that our baby girl is HEALTHY!

If you have been following along in my faith journey through this blog the last few years or you know me personally but still haven’t been able to understand why I put my love and trust in Jesus Christ, this here is a great example of why you should put your trust in Him also! Despite being able to live in a country where we have the privilege of $2 million dollar ultrasound machines that can see so many bodily structures in an unborn child and can potentially find health concerns so early on in their little lives, I believe in a God that is even BIGGER! He has had a plan for our little girl since even before she was an embryo! He is a God that provides health, healing, comfort, redemption, forgiveness and never leaves our side no matter the circumstance. He is bigger then $2 million fancy shmancy ultrasound equipment, He is bigger then the extremely intelligent doctors we are blessed to have for our health care, He is bigger then any health concern that we might be facing, He is better than anything we can physically imagine! I truly, truly believe that there is absolutely power in prayer. I can’t even begin to thank the many, many people that have been praying for us over the last 10 days. We’ve truly had an ARMY praying for us and I do believe that God has heard every single one of them! So, to those of you that have been diligent in praying, thank you, from the bottom of my heart! I’ve felt every. single. one of them!

Even though we are not completely out of the park just yet, I still ask that you continue to pray with us that our sweet little girl continues to grow and develop as she should and that she cooperates for her next ultrasound coming up in a few weeks so they can get all the photos of her head and brain needed to solidify the fact that our girl is healthy! I also ask that you pray that the ventricles in her brain return back to a normal measurement. I’m thankful for the chiseling that God has been doing on my heart and faith these last 10 days and I will continue to work towards being a woman more steadfast in our amazing Savior!

2020 Family Update

Happy 2020, friends! We are just barely into March and already this year has rolled in with quite an exciting update! 

For those close family and friends that know us well, this specific family update isn’t necessarily new to you but to those who don’t know, our biggest update is that we found out in November 2019 that we are pregnant and will be welcoming a second little bundle of joy into our family in July 2020! It’s been so fun to reflect on God’s faithfulness as just a couple years ago we were unsure if we would ever be able to have children, let alone two! I sometimes can’t even believe that I am pregnant again! 

On Monday, March 2, we went in for our 20 week ultrasound. I did the same thing I did with Titus and clung to the truths in Psalm 139. “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.” As someone who struggles with anxiety and worry, these verses have been so comforting to me. God has had a plan for this little baby since before we even thought about having a second child so no matter what, this little life has been created for a purpose! I ended up having the same Ultrasound Technician as I did with Titus so we had great conversation and she did great about calming my nerves as she walked us through all body parts. After being in the appointment an hour, this little baby gave the technician quite an adventure as the technician still struggled to get many successful photos of the head measurements so we made an appointment to have another ultrasound in 4 weeks to finish getting the photos we needed.

After being torn throughout the first half of pregnancy on what the gender was, I decided that we were going to have another boy. Almost all of my friends who have been pregnant with their second babies were all having the same gender as their first so I figured that our odds for having another boy were quite high! However, I was surprised to find out that we will be welcoming a sweet baby GIRL! Zach had had a feeling it was a girl the entire time I’ve been pregnant and I was so happy that his “feelings” were accurate this time around! We left the appointment feeling excited and thankful for a healthy baby girl! 

Later that afternoon, I got a call from the Maternal-Fetal Medicine department scheduling me for an appointment on March 3. I was told that I needed to be seen by a doctor regarding results from the ultrasound. Those were the only details I was given. To be honest, I was absolutely terrified! I know that most of the people that get these calls never receive good news about their babies. That afternoon, Zach and I called and texted as many prayer warriors as we could think of because we were not sure what we were about to walk into with this appointment. 

We went to our appointment and talked with the doctor. He explained that in the middle of the brain, there is a space where the Cerebral Spinal Fluid is circulated throughout the brain and down to the spinal cord. They measure that space in the ultrasound and the normal measurement cutoff for that space in the brain is 10mm. Our girl’s measurement was 11mm, 1mm outside the normal range. He explained that being outside the normal range can be an indication of potential genetic abnormalities (Trisomy 13, 18, Down’s Syndrome, etc). However, 90% of the time, everything is just fine and baby is healthy. He said in most cases, they can usually see other signs for these abnormalities when they look at other parts of the body on the ultrasound but thankfully, they couldn’t see any abnormalities or other concerns with our girl. He recommended that we do the prenatal blood test that would screen for these genetic abnormalities so we decided to do that. We will find out the results in about 10 days and if it is negative, the test is 99% accurate. Thankfully, the doctor was optimistic that the baby is healthy and that everything will be all right as this can be a common concern for many patients. So, though, it’s not necessarily comforting news, Zach and I both left the appointment feeling more encouraged and more at peace then before.

The anxious and worrier prone person that I am, is still nervous. I still can easily get on the “what if” train but I’m choosing to trust God. We serve a big God. He’s the same God that made blind men see, made the lame walk and even brought dead people back to life. The whole Earth obeys His commands so we are choosing to believe that God is bigger than any “concern” or “measurement” they find on an ultrasound. We believe that God will whole heartedly keep our baby girl healthy and that she will pass the genetic screening and next ultrasound with flying colors! No matter what, our God is so good and He has designed our sweet girl on purpose, for a purpose. I do believe there is power in prayer so if you would join us in praying for our sweet girl over the next few weeks, I’d so greatly appreciate it! We will continue to pray for the genetic screening test to come back negative and that we are able to get better photos of her head to solidify that she is healthy in there! 

A big thanks goes out to our friends Katie and Chris for going all out and throwing an impromptu gender reveal for us at our church connection group. It was fun to forget about all the fears about her health and to instead celebrate our little girl and the life God is creating for her! I’m thankful for such great friends and people who also see the power in prayer and are joining us in our prayers for a healthy baby!

The Pregnancy Chronicles: Welcome to the World, Titus Henry

Part VI

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2019 already! I have had so much I’ve wanted to share with you all before the new year but before I realized it, December just FLEW by. It seems like just yesterday that I brought my precious little boy into the world, but in reality, it’s been almost a month. Can you believe it?! A MONTH! Just thinking that makes this momma want to cry because it’s gone by so quickly.

The last time I posted, I talked about the agony of waiting and how I felt like I was never gonna get to meet my son. Well, my friends, that time FINALLY came! When I was pregnant, I absolutely loved hearing birth stories from my friends and fellow pregnant ladies. It always made me imagine what mine would be like and almost made me more excited for that day to come! So, I figured the best way to end my Pregnancy Chronicles series was to share my birth story with you all. It definitely didn’t go as planned but I am so proud of how our special day panned out and it was all worth it when we welcomed my precious Titus Henry into this world!

My original birth plan was to go into labor naturally and to have an unmedicated birth. I even hired a doula to help increase my chances for doing so. Well, my due date (December 5th) came and went with no sign of labor in sight. After discussing my desires to have a low intervention birth around 39 weeks, Dr Thies was supportive of my birth plan but didn’t feel comfortable with me going beyond 41 weeks. At that point, I was 39 weeks and super antsy to meet our little guy that I was okay scheduling an induction on December 12 because I’d be 41 weeks and figured I’d go into labor before that day came anyways. Plus, it was comforting to me to have an end in sight. With almost every other friend of mine delivering early, I was convinced I’d be no different. I guess Titus and God had different plans. Even though I wanted to go into labor naturally, I feel that God gave me a sense of peace with going through with the induction process if that’s how it panned out. Well, we finally made it to 41 weeks and D-Day had commenced (induction day was upon me).
We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am. We got checked in, filled out paperwork and discussed different options for induction. We decided that beginning induction by using the Cook Catheter followed by Pitocin would be the best way to go. The Cook catheter was done first because I was only 1cm dilated and it would get me dilated to around 4-5cm. Then pitocin would continue afterwards. They placed the catheter at 8am. That’s when the beginning of contractions started. They were painful. They started pitocin a few hours afterwards. I didn’t dilate to 4.5cm until around 3pm that afternoon and that was when they decided to remove the catheter. Once that was removed, the contractions became immediately bearable. I was feeling like superwoman at that point because I could handle them so well! Around 7pm, Dr Thies came in and checked my cervix and to my surprise, I was only 5cm dilated. I was so upset and worried that I wasn’t progressing quickly enough. She recommended I break my water to start moving things along. I had initially discussed with my doula to deny getting my water broken unless it did it automatically but after talking with Thies, at the rate my contractions were currently going, I wasn’t dilating and the only way to really progress was to break my water. I agreed, much to my doula’s dismay. Not more than 10 minutes later, I experienced some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. From around 7pm to 1am I labored in every position and in every piece of equipment that was available and nothing seemed to help the pain of my contractions. By 1am, Thies came in to check my cervix again, at which point I was only 6cm dilated. I knew at that point that I could no longer go on without an epidural. Thies knew that if I continued on like I currently was and really unable to manage my pain, that I’d be out of energy when it came time to push. So, I decided that the epidural was the best decision. And man, I don’t regret it! That epidural was a game changer. Within minutes, I was able to find relief and even get several hours of sleep. Zach was able to sleep too as he was also pretty exhausted. I was only able to sleep in a sitting position on the bed however as Titus’s heart rate was all over the place and that was the only way he was happy. By 8am on December 13, I was finally at 8cm! Yay, I was getting closer! And by 9am I was at 9.5cm. Around 11am, I was finally at 10cm and was ready to push! I pushed for about 30-45 minutes and before I knew it, Titus made his grand debut at 11:41am! It was one of the best moments of my life to have that little chunky baby placed on my chest. After only 2 or so minutes of skin to skin time, the nurses pulled him off and rushed him over to the table to place the CPAP respirator and drain the liquid from his lungs. I was so nervous but kept praying that God would take care of him. I had peace that he’d be okay. About 25 minutes later, he was breathing well and brought back to me for a delayed skin to skin time. He weighed in at 9lb 1oz and was 21.25” long! I couldn’t believe a baby that size actually fit inside of my 5’3″ frame! Crazy!

Even though my birth plan didn’t go the way I planned and even the days leading up to the induction brought me lots of anxiety, I’m really happy with my experience during labor and delivery. I am no longer against epidurals because it made such a difference to me. It was easy to let the pressure of others get to me but honestly, I was proud of the way it turned out. I labored unmedicated for 18 hours! Most of the women I know that had unmedicated births didn’t labor for that long. Plus, I was able to get sleep before pushing so that the pushing didn’t last hours and hours. 28 hours was a long time to labor and I definitely hope that next time I go into labor it will be shorter but overall, every moment spent in that low intervention room was so worth it when I locked eyes with the most perfect little baby! I know God definitely had his hand on the whole process and I’m so thankful I get to be Titus’s mom!

Induction Day had commenced. We were so excited about meeting our little man!
Our first photo as a family of three!
I’m the mom to the most perfect little baby! Titus Henry, you are so loved!

Budgeting 101

When Zach and I learned we were expecting in April, we realized that we needed to start taking better care of our finances and getting some student loan debt paid down before his arrival. Even though I’d argue that we were never really “reckless” with how we spent our money, there were definitely places we could reign in (eating out, shopping, unnecessary purchases from Amazon….can any of you relate?!) so that we could save more money and pay down more debt. So, since we made that decision, we’ve been living on Zach’s salary as if we haven’t had mine. I believe that God calls us to be responsible stewards of our money as all of it is His anyways.  Since we’ve been working on our budgeting discipline and perfecting our tactics, I figured I’d share with you some of the things we’ve done that have made our budgeting a little bit easier. With a little discipline and hard work, regardless of how much money you make, I think anyone can be responsible financial stewards and pay down debt and STILL live a life that is fully rewarding with the money you make!

  1. Find a budgeting app that works for you! With the ease of smart phone apps, there are a million and one budgeting apps that you could use to help you reach your budgeting goals. Some of the apps that I’ve heard good things about are: Mint, Everydollar, PocketGuard and You Need A Budget (YNAB). Budgeting used to confuse me so much. Before we found an app that worked for us, I used to get stressed out because I was never sure how to organize our finances in a way that made sense and was functional for us. I suggest that if you want to start a budget, look into one of those apps mentioned above and try it out! We currently use the Everydollar app and love it so far. It can even be linked up with your bank account so that you know exactly how much you are spending in each category! Bottom Line: Find an app that works for you and stick with it!
  2.  Tithe, Tithe, Tithe. As Christians, we are called to give our first fruits (10% of our earnings) to God because after all, He provides for us and everything we own/earn is His anyways. It says in Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Zach and I have seen God provide for us over and over again because we have been faithful in consistently giving our first fruits of our earnings to Him. At times the finances didn’t mathematically add up and we were in a bind, but somehow, we’ve always survived and God has always provided for us. Even if it doesn’t mathematically seem feasible in your budget to consistently tithe, remember that God is in control and He will take care of you, regardless if the money adds up in your head or not! Start making tithing a part of your monthly budget and you won’t regret it!
  3. Use cash for all your monthly purchases. If you use cash for all purchases, then once you run out of it, you can’t overspend what you don’t have! We first got this idea from Dave Ramsey. He’s always taught that we should use cash for everything so that once the money in each category runs out, you’re done for the month and don’t spend outside of your means. We’ve made a few little adjustments, however. We tend to pay our mortgage, our utilities, our student loan payments all online as they are all synced up to our checking account and it’s just easier for us to get them paid that way then to physically pay with cash. However, everything else we use cash for so that once we’re out, we’re out! It’s almost fool proof. Keep in mind, you need to tailor it to suit your situation the best but I definitely recommend using cash for almost every purchase you make. Get rid of those debit cards and only keep a credit card for emergencies! Using cash also really puts into perspective how much money you are spending on things. $20 always seems like way more to me when I pay for it in cash versus using my credit card.
  4. Live within your means. This is by far the hardest part of budgeting! When you first begin managing your finances and you have to readjust your spending habits, you learn how difficult it is to live within your means. However, once you start to form a habit of it, it gets easier. When you begin forming your budget, remember that in order to live within your means, it may require you getting rid of a few things (Cable, Netflix, gym membership, Ipsy, etc.) but trust me, it will get easier and you’ll find other, cheaper ways to enjoy things! The sooner you stop overspending, the sooner you’ll be able to save money and pay off debt!
  5. Appreciate the FREE things in life and take advantage of them. There are so many things in life that are free but we get so focused on spending, spending, spending that we forget to look and take advantage of those free things! Since I’ve started budgeting, I’ve started taking advantage of free activities. Try taking a trip to the library to rent books instead of purchasing them, look on your local events calendar to see what kind of free festivals or celebrations are going on (Christmas time is the perfect time to look for these festive events), take a walk at a park with a friend, go on a picnic, sometimes there are free movie showings at the local movie theater, check and see, or if you’re like me, have friends over and make them dinner! Looking for the free activities brings out more creativity and is almost more fun at times then the expensive things!

So, there you have it, the 5 key things Zach and I have done to become responsible stewards of our finances! These things have definitely transformed the way we manage our lifestyle but they are oh so worth it too! By following these steps, you’ll be on your way to paying off debt, building up your savings, hopefully being prepared when an emergency happens (i.e. new car, new HVAC system in your house, hospital bills, etc.) and also discovering freedom when you learn that you aren’t controlled by money or your bills!

Hope you found this helpful! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts about life, faith and DIY ideas!

The Pregnancy Chronicles: The Agony of Waiting

Part V

In today’s society, waiting becomes such a minute idea. With fast food, Amazon Prime, Walmart Grocery Pickup and many other convenient things, we now can almost eliminate the waiting factor. Patience is almost a foreign concept, especially in the US. We like to get what we want, when we want it. But what happens when we come across a situation in life where we are forced to be patient? I don’t know about you but embarrassingly, I often feel like kicking and screaming, being grumpy and having a hissy fit because I’m not getting what I want fast enough.

Patience, I have realized is a HUGE learning experience when it comes to pregnancy. I have learned that I have absolutely NO CONTROL over anything in pregnancy and it’s just so incredibly frustrating at times. All of pregnancy is a waiting game. You wait until you conceive (God willing), then once you find out you’re pregnant, you wait until your first ultrasound to see and hear that little heartbeat (hopefully it is beating), you then wait until 20 weeks to find out if baby is healthy (of which, you still have no control over) and the gender and then you finally wait until baby’s big debut, of which, you only have a due date estimate to go on. It’s just one big, huge, fat waiting game!

These last few weeks of pregnancy have been the most difficult for me in being patient. I have to admit, I’m failing at waiting and patience. I’m 39 weeks today and I feel like the last two weeks have gone painfully slow. After having several friends deliver at 37 weeks, I’ve been on high alert expecting our little guy to make his grand debut any day. Any ache, pain or discomfort I’ve felt have had me wondering if those were the beginning signs of labor. Still nothing. Every day I wake up with no labor pains is another day that I just want to sit on my bed and cry (remember that hissy fit I was talking about?! This is exactly when I’d like to have it) because I feel like I’m never gonna meet our little boy. Though I will surely meet him within two weeks or so, to me, it seems impossible that I could even go one day more without seeing his little face. Patience has been such a foreign concept to me lately. Though I’ve desired all through my pregnancy to let my body go into labor on my own and to labor with as little intervention as possible, the further along I get, the more willing I am to talk myself into getting induced and scheduling a date that I will get to meet him. Where’s the patience in waiting?

The Bible teaches us that we are to be steadfast in waiting. God never promises that everything will happen exactly how we want it to and when we want it to. News Flash: We are NOT GOD!! There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about the importance of waiting but I have noted just a few that speak to my heart currently.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” -Proverbs 27:14

 “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient…Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” James 5: 7-8, 11

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” Colossians 3:12

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25

In church, we have been studying through James and last week we landed in James 5: 1-12. In the first half of this chapter, James writes about how we should be patient in the coming of the Lord and preparing ourselves for not the self-indulgence of this world but for the treasures of eternity. Though I know waiting for a baby isn’t quite the same thing, it’s also been convicting in that we reap exactly what we sow. Just as farmers plant their crops and have to wait to cash in on their hard work, so I must also learn to wait on this perfect little human God is designing and forming for Zach and I. Our little man will come exactly when God thinks it’s best. Right now, he’s still growing and developing and every minute he’s in my womb is another minute that he gets to develop a little more. I must learn to remain patient. I am so close. I will have a little boy in my arms before Christmas! God is working and knows exactly when his birthday will be. Patience. All the hard work my body has done these last nine months will soon pay off with a perfect little boy, designed specifically for Zach and I to parent, thanks to God! It will just be in His perfect timing! Patience.

Now I ask you, are you struggling in waiting? Take time to pray and ask God what He can be teaching you through this time of waiting.

Thanksgiving Day at Cracker Barrel

The Pregnancy Chronicles: Maternity Photos at 29 Weeks

Part IV

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!


Dear Younger Me…

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.

Dearest Maren,

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

Senior Picture 1
Senior Pictures 2008

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!

High school Graduation
High School Graduation      May 30, 2008

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!

Much love to you,
Future (2018) Maren




The Pregnancy Chronicles: 28 Weeks

Part III

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-Changing Body// 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!








Laura’s Boho Themed Baby Shower

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!