What Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving a Miscarriage

Before my miscarriage, I had a hard time understanding what other people who had miscarried or experienced loss were going through. I had some friends and family who had experienced miscarriages and I somehow lacked the compassion. I never spent longer than a couple minutes pondering the little life that was lost or the sadness and grief that the family must be going through. I thought to myself, “That’s sad” and then would proceed with my life without a second thought or prayer for them. I was selfish. I wasn’t loving. I never walked through that trial with them or attempted to know how they were feeling. I was also guilty of being that person that said insensitive things in hopes of trying to brighten this very dark and difficult journey.

Although I’d never for a minute wish that this miscarriage happened to me, it has given me new insight into how to grieve with other people going through a loss like this, also. I’ve experienced an overwhelming sense of love and encouragement from family and friends and have been given a fair share of encouragement, prayers, bible verses and books lately and while it’s all been so helpful, I’ve also had things said to me that have not helped my healing process. After going through a loss ourselves, I thought it would be helpful to write about things NOT to say to those grieving a loss.

  1. “At Least You Can Get Pregnant.” As I write this first one, I embarrassingly chuckle to myself as I am guilty of saying this very thing to a close friend of mine when she experienced an ectopic pregnancy.  I know she had struggled with conceiving for quite sometime before her ectopic, so after she told me about everything that had happened, I wanted to try and stay positive and I thought it was encouraging to know that she, in fact, could get pregnant and that there wasn’t anything wrong. Pregnancy was achievable for them! I never knew how insensitive it was at the time. I don’t even think she ever told me it was insensitive but from my experience, I’ve realized just how insensitive and unhelpful it was to say. I was encouraged when I first found out I was pregnant because I did realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with either of us and that pregnancy was possible after all! However, after my miscarriage, this phrase became so redundant and so aggravating because after a year and a half of trying to get pregnant…..I was back at square one, having to start all the way over to achieve a pregnancy. Yes, I know I can get pregnant, but no, it doesn’t encourage me hearing this because I know the anxiety, stress, sadness, frustration and anger that comes with “trying” to conceive and here I am, doing it all over again.
  2. “Rejoice in your sufferings.” As a chronic worrier and a constantly anxious person, I’ve memorized scripture that has had to do with this very thing since I struggle with it so much. James 1:2-3 and Matthew 6:25-34 are among some of the common verses I’ve memorized as a way to remember the biblical truth and not what my emotions and anxiety cause me to believe. The very day I miscarried, I trusted in God’s plans, even though it meant that I was losing my baby. I know that through this trial, He is refining me, strengthening me, molding me and is going to use this to glorify Him in the future. I know I should count it as a joy when God puts trials in my life because that will make my faith and reliance on Him even greater but that doesn’t make this any less painful or any less difficult. While I know this phrase to be biblical truth, it hasn’t been helpful to hear it over and over again. This comment has almost made me feel like the things that I’m feeling are not adequate and that if I’m not rejoicing in my pain, then I’m doing it wrong. I’m learning that is okay to mourn, it is okay to be sad, it’s okay to admit that this trial absolutely sucks and I think allowing ourselves to do those things will help us grieve and allow us to come to know Jesus a little better because of it. He mourns with me and He still loves me despite how I feel amidst these circumstances.
  3. “It’s In God’s Timing; It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.” I’ve been guilty of saying this very thing to friends who have been in a chapter of “waiting.” Regardless of what it was that my friends were waiting for, I’m always the first to chime in by saying, “It’s in God’s timing, it will work out according to His will.” It’s always easier to say it when you’re a third party person not immediately involved in the trial of “waiting.” Now I, by no means, am trying to minimize the truth and value of this comment but, as in the previous comments, it becomes redundant and almost expected for someone to say this to me. I believe without a doubt that I will become pregnant again and it will be in His timing. I also believe my last pregnancy was in God’s timing, but friends, that doesn’t make it any easier or any less difficult to wait. I’ve been holding on to this reminder for as long as I’ve desired to be a mom. My constant prayer has been, “Not my will God, but yours. I pray that my desires become your desires and that our children will be according to your plans.” His timing is better than anything I could ever imagine, but the pain of waiting is sometimes unbearable. I think this phrase is almost something that someone says to be done with the conversation because those that have never been in this position never know what else to say. I always think that this is something that isaid to make the person mourning feel better, which, in a way, it does because God is the one who has control of my life and His timing is best, but I also feel like it is used as a way to minimize the heartache and pain that comes along with waiting.
  4. “You’ll be a great mother someday.” I know this comment is meant as a compliment and to a certain extent, that’s how I take it, but it also implies that the loss I experienced doesn’t make me a mother. However, regardless of how far along any woman is in her pregnancy, the moment she sees that positive pregnancy test, she becomes a mother and that loves blossoms into something you could never imagine.  Within a week of me knowing that I was pregnant, I was praying for my baby’s salvation and future life. I was so in love with this baby. More in love then I ever thought possible and I hadn’t even seen that baby face to face yet! Although I’m not quite sure what it is like to parent a newborn, or a toddler, or an adolescent, or a teenager, I do know what it is like to have a love so deep for that baby that the only thing I could compare it to is the Father’s love for us! I became a mother the day I found out I was pregnant and I will be forever changed because of it. It just might not look like most people who have healthy children.

So, I say these things, not to criticize those who have said these things (because, despite whatever has been said to me throughout this trial, I have truly appreciated every bit of encouragement I’ve received) but to just bring a little more insight to understanding how to come along side someone grieving a loss. You may be asking, “So what should I say to you or someone going through a similar trial?” That’s a great question as many people have asked me this very question. After Zach and I have discussed this quite a bit, I think the most encouraging and loving things that we’ve experienced is just having people mourn with us, love us and pray for us. I have learned that prayer is the best medicine as sometimes, I, myself, don’t even know what to do or say or ask for, but asking God to reveal those things is all we can do. To all of those people that took time out of their lives to pray with us, to send us a text encouraging us and to just mourn with us through all of this….all I can say is, thank you!

 

 

How Pain Can Bring Hope and A Change in Perspective

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I feel that I am suffering alone. I feel that I am screaming and nobody can hear me. I feel like my tears may never stop. I feel like no one cares. Behind all of my pictures on social media of smiles and happiness lies a girl that is surviving a silent pain that no one can see in my physical being. This pain is a pain that not many women talk about. It’s a pain that no woman wants to admit struggling with for a fear of inferiority or loss of self worth. It’s a fear because we, as women, were designed by God for this and if we struggle with this or are unable to achieve this, then there is something wrong with us. What is this infamous pain that I so struggle with? It is the pain of infertility or struggling to conceive a child.

For months I have considered writing about this but every single time I have, I have stopped myself. I’ve stopped myself for many reasons- feelings of inferiority,  not wanting everyone to know Zach and I have been trying to conceive, feeling that this isn’t everyone’s business anyways, feeling like I’m a failure as a woman and a wife for not producing a child and the list goes on and on. However, I have finally come to a point where I should be open to the world because 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriages in their lifetime and 7.4 million women struggle with getting or staying pregnant. Those statistics are a lot more common than most people think and not many seem to talk about it. I’m struggling with this very issue and it seems that I can’t hide my feelings anymore.

While I haven’t ever been pregnant nor experienced a miscarriage, I have struggled over the past year getting pregnant. I never once thought in my adolescence that I’d struggle to get pregnant in the future. I always thought that it would be my decision (and my husband’s decision) to get pregnant and that it would happen when we planned it. Boy, was I wrong. In November 2016, Zach and I decided that we were both ready to start a family. I was so excited because my desire to be a mother went from being non-existent in my early 20s to deeply desiring it at age 25. Then, one month led to three months and three months led to nine months and before I knew it, we were at a year of trying to conceive with no success. Each month we’ve come up empty handed, those pains that I’ve felt have become almost unbearable. Over the last year, I’ve had several very close friends share with me that they’re expecting. These were friends that I once talked about getting pregnant at the same time with and friends that used to fantasize with me about what their future child would look like. Now, they’ve either gotten to experience that or are currently experiencing the miracle of pregnancy. And here I am, 27, only 3 years away from 30, been married longer than most of my friends with kids already, and I’m still childless. The thought of that alone brings tears to my eyes. These are thoughts I’ve embarrassingly been struggling with over the last year.

People have told me that I should just go and see a fertility doctor so that I can get answers. And while I’ve seriously considered it, my faith remains in God. His timing is perfect (I’m still struggling to get my heart to believe this sometimes). No matter what I try to do (go to a fertility doctor, take ovulation kits, take my temperature, etc.) this miracle lies in the hands of our Wonderful Counselor only. If it’s in His will, then it will happen.  Although, I still have many days of doubting that I will ever experience this miracle, I still remain hopeful that one day God will answer this prayer. I’ve been struggling with those feelings I mentioned above but as I’ve discussed on my blog before, emotions lie. It’s easy to believe those emotions as truth but they are just things that Satan uses to get in between me and God. Through this trial, I’m learning that life isn’t about me, but God. Thanks to my sweet husband, who never ceases to amaze me with his unfailing faith, consistently feeds me this truth daily. I must take my focus off of myself and put it on God. I may one day head to the doctor to get some answers, but for now, I’m waiting on God to give me clarity and wisdom in this struggle.  The pain is still there. With every friend that shares their exciting news with me, it still is hard to chose God over this desire, but I know He is the right choice. I share all of this with you, not for a pity party of my own gratification but to be real and raw about something that I am truly struggling with. My hope is that if you are struggling with this same thing (or something similar), you will know that you are not alone. Other people are struggling with this too. There is hope in Jesus and His plans for you are greater than any plans you and I can fathom. He mourns with me through this trial and He mourns with you. I’m not sure what the future will hold for Zach and I, but I’m learning to remain steadfast and faithful to God. I’m definitely not close to mastering this but my hope is that one day I will be able to master it and see God’s hand in all of it.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” -Psalms 34

As I continue through this trial, instead of praying for God to remove this situation from my life, I’m going to pray that He changes my perspective. A friend of mine shared with me the song “Different” by Micah Tyler. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend that you check it out because it’s so powerful and there’s so much truth if you are down in a valley like I am, struggling. The chorus says this, “I wanna be different, I wanna be changed, that all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright that the whole world can see that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.” My prayer is that the Lord can set a fire in my heart so that I no longer see what I don’t have in this world but I see what I do have in eternity. What Jesus gave to me no one or anything else can even come close to in this world. I hope that you can take these truths to heart also. If you’re struggling, I’d love to hear from you so that I can pray with you and walk with you during this time. Remember, God is there with His arms wide open, mourning with you and through Him we can find healing.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving: A Season to be Thankful

Well, I blinked and now the end of November is upon me! I can’t believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone in a blink of an eye! I love the Thanksgiving holiday because it allows me to slow down and to reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon me. I have so much to be thankful for and I want to share some of the things that I am thankful for this year.
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(1) I am thankful that Zach has been given a new job opportunity that is located in Columbia. After a year and a half of Zach working from home and having to travel out of town every other week, it will be nice to have him home constantly. Since we lead a connection group and are very active in our church, it will be so nice to pursue ministry together again. Not only that, but I enjoy my husband doing life with me every single day! Looking forward to this new chapter!
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(2) I am thankful for our connection group! Zach and I began leading a connection group in January of this year! Since then, our connection group has almost doubled in size and we have all grown closer together. We celebrated a Friendsgiving with our connection group this past Tuesday and it was just such a wonderful time to bond and to enjoy each other’s company. I prayed and desired to live in an area where we could have great community for quite some time and it’s been such a blessing to see God’s hand in all of it! I love every single one of these people and am so thankful I get to call them “family.”
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(3) I am thankful for my own family! My parents and brother live in South Carolina and my sister and her husband live in Alabama. I only see them about once or twice a year so any time I’m able to have the opportunity to see them is a blessing! Zach and I traveled down to South Carolina for Thanksgiving and, though it was only a couple days, it was so worth it and such a blessing!
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(4) I am thankful to have such wonderful in-laws. Some people always make jokes about their difficult relationships with their in-laws, but not mine. I see them at least once a month and I honestly feel as if they are my own parents! I couldn’t have asked for better “second parents!”
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(5) I am extremely thankful for Anthem Church! One of these days, I will need to share my testimony on my blog and how Anthem Church has helped me grow closer to Jesus! If it wasn’t for this church and these people, not sure I’d be where I am in my faith today! I love the teaching, I love the people and I love being a part of this church family! God is doing so many wonderful things in this place and I’m so blessed to be a part of it!
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While I could go on and on about how much God has blessed me, I will spare you the novel and instead end it with these five big things I’m thankful for! Thank you God for blessing me and for allowing me to spend time reflecting and thanking you for your goodness! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving too! How did you spend your Thanksgiving?! Share your stories with me in the comments! Below are a few photos that I took over my Thanksgiving!

IMG_4860 2A few people at our Friends-giving. Mind you, we had a whole other table for the rest of our group!fullsizeoutput_1bc2 The Ritterling patriarch and matriarch, complete with the Fleer and Marquardt familiesfullsizeoutput_1bbfMy lovefullsizeoutput_1bca‘Merica!

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!