Jen’s Baby Shower

On November 5th, I hosted a Woodland themed baby shower for my dear friend, Jennifer. Jen and I have been friends for close to 6 1/2 years. If you are a consistent reader of my blog, you’ll probably remember Jennifer from my Friendship Photoshoot post. As soon as I found out that Jen was expecting, I knew instantly that I wanted to throw her a baby shower! This baby has been prayed for for quite a long time so all I could do was celebrate with her!

Jen and I have very similar styles, so when I found out she was having a boy, I knew I wanted the theme of the baby shower to be an outdoorsy and woodland style. I wanted to go “above and beyond” with this shower but I didn’t want to break the bank either. Thankfully, I was able to keep the costs minimal by using much of my own home decor! It was such a joy, not only to see Jen’s excitement, but also because I’ve had these ideas in my head for the last couple months and it was finally able to come to fruition! There was a great turn out and everyone seemed to have a fun time, especially the “Momma-to-Be.”

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10k At Last

Labor Day weekend definitely did not disappoint! It was a great weekend, full of many “firsts!” Back in the beginning of June, I was ready to tackle a new challenge. I had asked a couple friends of mine, Ally and Laura, if they’d be willing to train for and run a race with me. They agreed and we decided upon a 10k (6.2 miles). We chose a 10k as our distance because a 5k (3.1 miles) was far too easy of a goal. If I ran for just a couple of weeks, I could run a 5k with no problem. We wanted something that would be challenging, but not too challenging like a half marathon…so, alas, 10k it was!

Ally’s co-worker is an avid runner, so he graciously wrote down a training plan for us to follow over the course of the next 12 weeks. At the beginning, we were all excited to run this race. The temperatures were unusually cool in June and we were holding each other accountable weekly with our distance. Before training for this race, the most I had ever run was 3 miles. Each day, I was able to push myself a little bit more. I loved working toward a goal and pushing myself to get there and not only that, but being able to do it alongside some great girls was even better!

July was hot, humid, steamy…miserable, to say the least. I quickly learned that if I didn’t get an early morning run in then I wouldn’t be running that day. I just couldn’t handle the humidity as I’d run in the evenings. In mid-July, Alyson (goes by Aly, but for the sake of preventing confusion, we’ll go by her full name) decided to join us! I was excited to add one more girl to the mix! Throughout the entire 12 weeks of training, it was interesting to see the dynamic of how each of us encouraged each other on our more difficult running days. On a day my body was telling me “no, please slow down,” Alyson would continue to push me farther. On the days Laura started to fall behind, we’d help her get her mind back into it. On the days our legs would cramp in weird places, Alyson would stretch us out. On the days we needed good conversation, Ally was there to talk through things. We all had different characteristics that helped each of us continue to press onward in our training together!

Fast forward to September 2nd. It was race day! Our race was in Blue Springs, MO which was about an hour and a half away from Columbia. We stayed in a hotel room together and were able to bond over dinner prior to our race. I was surprised with how many jitters and butterflies I had that day as I pulled into the parking lot. The competitor in me wasn’t dead after all! On one hand, I was super nervous for what I was about to do, but on the other hand, I was raring to go! The girls also had their own reservations for what was in store. Before we knew it, the race had begun. The race was easy and difficult for me at the same time. Alyson and I kept a pretty good pace together while Ally and Laura ran together, too. The rough patch came at the end of the run….a series of hills. Alyson and I kept pressing onward. The goal I had made with myself was to finish the race in around an hour (within a minute or two). At the last 100 feet, Alyson and I sprinted as fast as we could to the finish line! I finished within my goal of 1:01:44! I can’t begin to tell you how accomplished I felt not only completing my first race and 10k, but also finishing within my goal! I was on a high because I knew that if I could train for and complete a 10k, I could complete anything else I set my mind to! I used to be that girl that would make excuses for everything (I sometimes still struggle with that) but after completing this race, I’ve realized that I must throw those excuses out the window!

The real MVPs, though, goes to both Ally and Laura! Despite some discouraging runs they had prior to the race and the difficulty they experienced during the race, they both hung on, pushed themselves, even to the point of vomiting, and still finished the race! I can’t even begin to explain how excited and proud I was of them! I’m so thankful that all three of these girls were able to be a part of this experience with me!

As I look back at this past weekend, I’m thankful for the FIRSTS that I experienced: running a race, completing a race within my goal, placing 3rd in my age division and doing all of this with some really great girls! I’m looking forward to what challenges are ahead!

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Our Day of Rest

This summer, Zach’s work schedule has been ridiculously busy in that almost every other week he has been out of town traveling. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster in that at the end of each period that he’s gone, he comes home emotionally and physically drained from long 12-16 hour work days with little time to decompress. At the beginning of our marriage, Zach would return home and I’d be anxious to continue our busy lives going out with friends and being active in church activities that I would forget what we both really needed-to slow down and to be still.

After being married six years, I’m starting to learn how important it is for the both of us to remove ourselves from our busy lives. It allows us to not only draw nearer to each other but also to draw nearer to God. It says in Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. In today’s society, we have become used to working every single day of our lives that we forget that our bodies, our souls and our minds need rest. We need a day to dedicate to slowing down and to draw nearer to the Lord.

Zach and I decided at the beginning of summer that we would dedicate one Saturday a month as our “Sabbath” day. So, this past Friday night and Saturday, Zach and I decided to go camping. We both love camping because we are able to spend time outdoors, experience nature and to just slow down. We disconnected from our cell phones and electronics and lived “primitively” for a short time. It was just what we needed!

We went camping at Rudolf Bennit Conservation Area. They have some camping sites right along the lake. With lows in the 50s and highs in the low 70s, the weather was perfect! We took our canoe out and fished briefly and then just enjoyed an evening by the fire. It was a perfect way to decompress and be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

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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!

A Year In Review

May 28, 2017 will mark one year since Zach and I moved back to Columbia. As May 28 gets closer, I can’t help but reminisce over this past year and all the blessings God has given us and all the experiences we’ve had in one short year! I’d love to share some of my favorite highlights of our lives over the past year back in Columbia!

On May 28, 2016, as we packed up the U-Haul, I had so many emotions going through my head. I was mostly excited because I have ALWAYS loved Columbia and I knew that we were following God’s will, but while I was driving our truck towards Columbia, I had no idea that I would experience so much sadness. I was sad to leave Emmaus Church after being a part of it from the very beginning, I was sad to leave so many great friends we had made there and I was sad to leave some of the girls I worked with at Xenometrics that I’d become close to. What surprised me the most was that I was actually sad to leave Kansas City! I’ve always considered myself half “country girl” and half “city girl” because I enjoy a little bit of both, but the big city really has never fit into the lifestyle Zach and I have made for ourselves. But man, oh man, was I sad to leave Kansas City! I would miss the hustle and bustle of the city life, the innumerable activities to do and admittedly, I’d miss the shopping! I knew that we were starting a new chapter, though, and that allowed me to close that chapter as we drove out of that city and thank God for our time there. Throughout two and a half years, Zach and I really made a nice little life for ourselves in Kansas City! I still look back fondly on the time we lived there.

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In June 2016, Zach and I began looking for a new church to call our home. Although we had both lived in Columbia previously and were members of a local church there at the time, we wanted to start our new chapter fresh and so we decided to find a new church altogether. Before we moved away, we discussed with a few people at Emmaus if they knew of any churches we should attend. Julie, who was originally from Iowa, had a brother who was a part of Candeo Church in Cedar Falls, IA and he had told her that they were planting a new church in Columbia called Anthem Church. She connected me with Paige through Facebook who was already committed to Anthem and she invited us to attend a BBQ that some of the core members were hosting. On one June evening, Zach and I attended that BBQ. That was one of the best nights I’ve ever had meeting new people! Zach and I got in the car that evening, looked at each other and unanimously agreed that we had found our church! I feel like it was the Holy Spirit telling the both of us that that was where we needed to be, and thus, we committed ourselves to Anthem Church before it was even a church!

At the end of July and beginning of August 2016, I was sent to Smith College in Northampton, MA to attend a Molecular Biology Bootcamp to prepare me for some of the lab work I’d be performing as a Research Technician. Two weeks was a long time to be away from Zach, but it proved to be an eye-opening experience! I got to see some of the Northeast and got to meet people from all over the country and, not to mention, got to participate in some awesome laboratory experiments. I am a science nerd!

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Ford Hall, where we spent most of our time.fullsizeoutput_126f
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Our lab group was called the Vectors.
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Look, it’s DNA!IMG_1993Our phenotypically altered C. Elegens through a microscope. One of our laboratory experiments!

In November 2016, my mom came to visit us in Columbia! My mom and I are so close and are always counting down the days until we get to see each other again! After all, she lives in South Carolina, so I only get to see her once or twice a year. When we get together, we always take advantage of it by getting lots of shopping in!

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Shopping in St. Louis.IMG_2436We took my mom to the overlook at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.

In December 2016, Zach and I were able to take a long overdue trip down to South Carolina to spend Christmas with my family. In 2015, my parents moved back to Anderson, SC where I grew up. It was bittersweet because whenever I’d get to visit them, I’d get to relive my adolescence by being back in the hometown I love, but also hard because they are 14 hours away from us, so visits are few are far between. I have learned to really enjoy and savor the moments I have with my family and so being with them on Christmas was a special treat!

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My sister, Jenna and her husband, Tim and my brother, Landon.IMG_2690
We visited with my friend from high school, Sydney, and her husband, Brad.fullsizeoutput_127bMy daddy at the Clemson Botanical Gardens.

In January 2017, we were given the opportunity to lead a connection group for our church. It has been a super humbling experience and an opportunity that has allowed me to draw nearer to God. When you lead a group, your weaknesses become even more apparent but it’s so nice to have people that love you regardless. I love this group of people and I’m so thankful that I get to do life with them each and every day!

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One of the things I love about Columbia the most are the many conservation areas and agriculturally friendly places Zach and I can go to explore and let our dogs roam free! These are a few pictures from some of the days we walked with our dogs in January and February 2017.

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I have been so thankful to call these people some of my best and closest friends! In middle school, high school and college I had a really rough time with friends. Now, many years later, I have learned so much about what it means to truly love people and to have friendships that are intentional and meaningful. These people have vastly impacted my life and am so thankful for the friendships I’ve made since I’ve been back in Columbia!

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As we ended our chapter in Kansas City and began a new one in Columbia, I look back on some of these highlights (and even more that I haven’t mentioned) and all I can do is thank God for the immeasurable blessings he continues to pour out on Zach and I. If you had asked me a year ago when we packed up that U-Haul what I thought the next year would look like, it would have been a lot different than this. I don’t think I expected to make so many valuable friendships, to be blessed with a great job, to have an amazing church and most importantly, to have the relationship with God that I do now! There have definitely been growing pains but sometimes you have to go through them to get to the maturity you desire. Cheers to you, Columbia! Thanks for making our first year back one to remember and the perfect next chapter in our lives.

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!